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The Lucifer Effect

Chapter Text

When Dean tried to get up that morning, his pillow stuck to his face.

He might not even have noticed it, if his vision had been just a little blurrier and the headache pounding behind his temples had been just a little worse. It was one of those flat motel pillows, the kind that had a promising career as a disposable napkin waiting for it if housekeeping ever forgot to pitch it back onto a bed after washing it, so it wasn't like it was that much of an inconvenience. But he was just lucid enough to notice the slight drag on the side of his face as he started to push himself up, and then it was annoying.

Dean lifted a hand to pull the pillow off. Or tried to, anyway. His hand was stuck, too. To the bed's threadbare comforter, which he'd apparently slept on top of last night. In his clothes. Great. Combine that with his headache and he'd probably gotten himself plastered, passed out, and then puked while he was asleep. Glued himself to the bed that way, which was pretty disgusting, especially considering it'd never happened before. He couldn't believe Sam hadn't cleaned him up or at least flipped him over. If Sam had been around last night, that was. Maybe that was why he'd gotten drunk. He really didn't remember anything from however many hours before, which was always a good sign.

Dean wrenched his hand free from the comforter and yanked the pillow off of his face, wincing slightly as it pulled on stubble that was just a little too long for his liking. He dropped the pillow and stared blearily down at it, and the large stain on it where his head had been resting. It was a testament to just how messed up his head was this morning that it took him a few seconds to realize that something was very wrong with what he was looking at.

The stain, in roughly the same shape as the side of his face, was a rusty red-brown. There were little smears and droplets around the main bulk of it. As Dean's vision slowly cleared, he could see little strings and scraps and clumps dried onto the pillow. Pieces of...he wasn't even sure he wanted to know.

"What the hell...?" His first instinct, as he pushed himself further up, was to grab his stomach, which felt fine (at least until the rancid metallic scent all around him registered and got it rolling uncomfortably). His shirt, stiff and saturated, peeled stickily off the comforter, and he put his hands on his face, feeling for wounds and gashes. He didn't find any, which wasn't all that surprising. Now that he was sitting up, he could see how soaked his clothes were, as well as everything he'd slept on. Plain common sense told him that if that much blood had come out of him, either flowing from a cut or being thrown up, he'd be dead.

Shocked and, more than anything else, confused, Dean grabbed at his shirt, just staring at it. He could sort of discern some kind of vague splash pattern in the dried blood that covered it, like he'd been standing at the edge of a swimming pool full of gore when someone did a cannonball into it. Then he noticed his hands. He kept his nails short, but blood was still caked underneath them. It had built up around the silver ring he wore on his left hand. He was drenched in it up past the elbows, red-brown flaking and itchy on his freckled skin. There was a ragged, half-dried patch of...something, something that looked like it had been thin and elastic when it was still moist, stuck to the face of his watch. Examining that with a sick fascination, Dean felt another worm of nausea slither through his stomach. Right before something occurred to him that he really should have thought of earlier.

"Sam?" Dean dropped his bloody hands, scrambled off the ruined bed. "Sammy?!"

He didn't see him at first, and that had him feeling about a thousand times sicker than he had earlier. When he finally caught sight of him, he relaxed. Sort of.

Sam was sitting by the motel room's door, on one of the cheap plywood chairs that had been grouped around the small table, in the perfect position to see anyone who came in. He had Dean's handgun, grips smeared with red and brown, resting on one thigh, near his hand, and a hypodermic full of something dark resting on the other. Like Dean, he was wearing what were probably yesterday's clothes. And, like Dean, he looked like he'd taken a shower in the runoff from a slaughterhouse.

His long hair had matted into ropy tendrils around his blood-spattered face, the honey-colored highlights in it obscured by what covered the rest of him. His hands looked a whole lot like Dean's did. His T-shirt, jacket, and jeans were clearly ruined, and even his boots were covered. Like he'd been wading through the stuff. The only clean part of him seemed to be his eyes, fixed on Dean and carefully blank.

"Shit," Dean cursed under his breath, before practically lunging over to Sam. It felt like the movement sent a couple of medicine balls rolling around in his tender head, but he couldn't care less. He felt Sam's throat with blood-covered fingertips, looking for any break in the skin, and was about to dive under his shirt to search for wounds, but Sam reached up and brushed his hands away before he could.

"I'm not hurt," he said, voice rough with disuse as he shook his head a little. A nebulous sort of relief went through Dean when he heard him speak, though he wasn't sure why. "You're not, either. Far as I know." He lifted one of his hands and stared at it. Dean could see that the covering of dried blood had cracked over the lines in his palm. "None of this is ours."

"Are you sure?" Dean asked, staying where he was just in case Sam took the statement back and pulled up his shirt to show him that his chest had been minced into raw hamburger. But Sam just nodded. So Dean took a few steps backwards, in order to sink down onto the edge of the blood-soaked bed he'd slept on last night. He felt much better once he was resting on a solid surface. "Then where the hell did all of this - " He twitched a hand at his own shirt. " - come from?"

"You don't remember?" Sam asked. Dean was slightly unnerved by how calm he sounded. Mostly because he knew his brother well enough to be aware that, the greater the control he was exercising over himself, the worse the hysteria boiling just below the surface.

"Sam, right now, I barely remember lunch yesterday," Dean replied, raising a hand to massage his forehead. He stopped when he realized there was blood crusted into his eyebrows. "Wouldn't be surprised if my BA's still over the legal limit; feels like I got run over by a semi." He glanced down at himself. "Guess it kinda looks like it, too."

"Suppose it makes sense that you blacked out," Sam replied. "We were definitely drinking. Actually, I doubt either of us could've made it through last night without the booze." He glanced down at the gun on his lap, studying it. "Kind of wish I'd forgotten, too."

Dean was beginning to feel nauseated again. "Sam," he said clearly, trying to bring his attention back to him. "What happened? We went after vampires. I remember that."

Sam's eyes flicked from the gun to the syringe, which, Dean realized, was probably full of blood he'd taken from a corpse. "We found them. Or a couple of the others found them, I should say. And then they brought us to them."

Dean ran a hand over his hair. It was stiff with blood, and he could feel pieces of the stringy stuff that had been on his pillow stuck between the strands. He forcibly swallowed something that burned at the back of his throat and leaned forward a little.

"Sam," he repeated, lowering his voice and letting some of the urgency he was feeling slip into it. "What happened?"

Sam finally looked back up at him, and swallowed himself before responding.

"We crossed a line," he said quietly. "We crossed just about every line in the book, last night. That's what happened."

Chapter Text

Despite the fact that the job could be done solo, most hunters tended to work in pairs at least part of the time. Two was a real good number, which Dean had figured out within his first few weeks of hunting with Sam after their dad had gone AWOL. Especially if you knew the person and their rhythms as well as Dean did his brother. You had somebody to help out with research, you didn't have to worry about watching your back, and if you were wrong about something, then more often than not, your partner wouldn't hesitate to tell you. Hunters weren't what anyone would call meek.

Pairs worked pretty well for most things, but every once in awhile, you ran into a case that was just too damn big for only two people. That was what their current project was, if Dean's memory served him correctly. When that happened, you had no choice but to team up with another hunter. Or another pair.

Here, they had come across a massive network of vampires. At least seven good-sized nests that they'd been able to uncover, spread out over four counties in Pennsylvania. Intermating, feeding together, helping each other defend their territories from the other monsters in the region. There was no way Sam and Dean could deal with all of them on their own. Even if they did manage to wipe one nest off the map, all the others would be on them in a heartbeat, and they wouldn't have any hope of surviving.

So they'd made a pack. Run into a few other pairs who were in the area, marveling at the sheer clusterfuck-ness of the situation, and stuck close to them. Swapped information and ideas, came up with plans - although, so far, none that were any good. All told, there were eight of them, eight guys who barely knew each other, but they'd been spending enough time together for Dean to prick up on something strange about a few of them. Something that reminded him of Gordon who, funnily enough, had also been involved with vampires those few times they'd run into him.

Maybe he should have just taken Sam and left as soon as he'd caught on to the fact that something was wrong with some of the guys they were hunting with. Maybe that was what he'd done wrong, and maybe that was why they were in so deep now.

Chapter Text

About an hour after Dean woke up, a few things had started to filter through the thick black screen that covered his memory of the night before. His hangover had ebbed a little, thanks to Sam (still watching the door) offering him a couple of water bottles he must've grabbed while Dean was still asleep. They looked like the last of a pile, most empty, sitting under Sam's chair. The plastic was smudged with blood, of course, but Dean drank both anyway, with Sam's calm prodding. But the disjointed, fuzzy memories that were slowly creeping back to him were making him feel sick all over again.

He remembered a barn. A beat-up, weathered-out old place, in the middle of nowhere, that was probably abandoned. The others had been there. Both Sam and the ones he didn't know nearly as well. Probably his clearest memory, at the moment, was of the smell. Blood and burned meat and something that stank worse than raw sewage, which Dean wished he didn't know came from when someone's intestines got opened up in a very specific place.

There'd been blood on the walls of the barn. Dean had already been more than halfway to being drunk when he'd seen it, wobbling on his feet, so maybe it hadn't disturbed him quite as much as it should have.

It'd been awhile since Dean had had a really good freak-out, and he was kind of proud of that, but he broke his record that morning. He was useless long after h finished the bottles of water. He still didn't know exactly what had happened, and Sam, who usually relished bitching him out when he screwed up, wouldn't tell him. He alternated between yelling at Sam, pacing jerkily around their stained room, and trying to dry-rub the blood off of his face and hands. He didn't know how to fix this. He didn't even know how to start. He might have a better idea if he actually knew what they'd done, but the only one of them who remembered was sitting by the door in a semi-catatonic state.

With a pistol and a needle of dead man's blood in his hands. Realizing that, Dean walked back over to Sam and eased the weapons away from him. Sam looked down, but he didn't try to stop him. Maybe he was feeling safer now that Dean was awake, or now that the sun was up.

Setting the gun and the needle down on the nightstand between their two beds, Dean clamped down on himself and focused. Or tried to, at least. The remnants of his headache were still nagging at him, but he couldn't just panic all day. Calming down and taking control of a situation was a skill he'd learned back when he was pretty young. Mostly because of Sam. And here he was doing it again, mostly because of Sam, since Sam hadn't shown any sign of doing anything constructive since he'd given Dean the water.

"Sam?" Dean asked, standing between their beds. Sam looked at him. Encouraged, Dean continued. "Look. I have no idea what we did last night...well, I have some idea, but I still don't really know. But I do know that we're not gonna leave any evidence of it lying around. For example." He pointed at his rusty bed. "We're gonna burn that. The sheets and stuff. And we're gonna burn our clothes, too." They knew ways to get blood out of flannel and denim, but Dean was fairly sure that what they were wearing was too far gone. "We're gonna dump bleach on those." He pointed to the bloody bootprints that, by the look of things, only one of them had tracked across the filthy carpet. "We're gonna wash off everything else we messed up." He pointed at the gun that Sam had gotten dirty. "And I'm gonna take a shower. A long, long shower."

He started to cross the room, but stopped, surprised, when Sam rose out of his chair, nodding stiffly. He'd expected him to just stare at him some more after he'd announced his plan.

"Give me your clothes," he replied. "I'll roll them and the pillows up in your comforter and put it all in the car's trunk. We can burn it all later."

"Okay," Dean agreed. He started towards the bathroom again, happening to catch sight of the room's cheap wall clock on the way. It was nearing lunchtime, but he wasn't feeling all that hungry. "Sounds good to me."

He tugged the door of the small, dirty bathroom partially closed behind him, stripping before dumping his crusty clothes in a pile on the floor outside so Sam could pick them up. He had to literally peel them off of his skin, and underneath, he found himself haphazardly streaked with red and brown. It looked like somebody had gone over him with a damp, bloody sponge. He couldn't even pick out most of his faint freckles underneath it.

Just looking at his skin made it crawl, so Dean pulled the door shut the rest of the way, turned the water in the shower on as hot as he could stand it, and stepped under the spray. The pipes whined in testament to the motel's crappy water pressure as he dragged the yellowing plastic curtain across the length of the shallow tub. The stomach-turning metallic scent of the blood got about a hundred times worse the second the hot water hit him, and Dean braced himself with a hand on the mildewed wall as he tried not to gag. At least it was cleaning him off, dissolving the gore that was splashed across him. Red and brown water, carrying chunks and scraps of something that was probably horrible, swirled down the drain.

Dean closed his eyes and tipped his head back, running his hands over his close-cropped hair and feeling all sorts of junk come loose. He wasn't any stranger to being covered in blood, but never this much, and never from a source he couldn't remember. He guessed all he could do was hope it wasn't human until his memories came back or Sam decided to start talking.

Dean wasn't sure how long he'd been in the shower when he hear the bathroom door open. He'd been lost in thought, trying to remember anything past the foggy little patches that had already come back to him, running his hands absentmindedly over himself to help loosen the blood up. He was actually kind of surprised he hadn't been furiously scrubbing himself to get rid of it all, but now that the panic was gone, a weird, heavy sort of tiredness had set in.

"Sam?" Dean called over the sound of the shower, wiping water out of his eyes before he opened them and turned towards the door. "What d'you need?"

Sam didn't answer. Dean sucked in a lungful of steamy air to call out again, but before he could, someone pulled the curtain open. Dean immediately tensed, hands snapping into fists. Had to be something after him because of last night. He wasn't dying in the freaking shower - he was just about the furthest thing from Marion Crane, in his opinion.

But it wasn't a vampire, or one of the other hunters, or even Anthony Perkins in a dress. It was just Sam. Naked Sam. Which was a hell of a lot more confusing than any of those other three things.

"What the he - " Dean began, but he was cut off by Sam, still covered in his own layer of dried blood, climbing into the tub with his eyes aimed firmly down at the floor. Dean backed up, disturbed and confused. Out of the hot spray of the shower, back pressed up against the wall, he chose a stronger word. "What the fuck, Sam?"

"Sorry," Sam mumbled, before closing the distance between them. Dean tried to get out of the way, but there wasn't really anywhere for him to go, so he wound up with Sam's chest resting against his and Sam's arms loosely around his torso. Dean blinked as Sam lowered his chin onto his shoulder and heaved a broken-sounding sigh.

Sam hadn't acted like this in years. Decades, actually - if Dean wanted to be really picky, this exact behavior went all the way back to before either of them hit puberty, when there'd been nothing weird to them about taking baths together and sleeping in the same bed and cuddling whenever they got the chance. For Dean's willful, stubborn, tough-as-nails, and (more often than not) fiercely independent little brother to regress like this, to need him like this, something must have happened last night that damn near shattered his world.

Hesitantly, Dean put his arms around Sam, too, hugging him back. He felt Sam relax a little, heard him sigh again. This was weird as hell, and Dean hadn't felt so uncomfortable since wearing a pair of panties for the first time as a teenager, but if it made Sam feel better, he could tough it out. So he nudged Sam back, walking the two of them awkwardly along the length of the tub, until they were both standing under the deliciously-hot water coming out of the showerhead. The movement sent Dean's flaccid cock brushing gently against Sam's, and goosebumps erupted along his spine. He did his best to ignore both the cause and the effect.

"I've got you, Sammy," Dean said soothingly, doing his best to comfort him as he reached for the bottle of cheap, generic shampoo they'd put in the shower a few days ago. "It's okay, baby boy."

Sam didn't say anything in response, but he did pull back a little and straighten up so that Dean could wash his hair. Dean hadn't done this in a long time, but somehow, the movements were still comfortably familiar. Once the blood was out of Sam's hair, he easily transitioned to washing the rest of him. The tub was small and they were a couple of larger-than-average guys, but Dean did what he could in the limited space. When Sam was clean, his tan skin free of the same sponge-pattern of blood that Dean had had, Dean reached up and slicked Sam's long, dark hair back from his face. Sam finally looked at him. There was more emotion in his face, more life, than had been there when Dean first woke up. Not a lot, but still.

Dean put his hands on Sam's shoulders, making eye contact with him. Somewhere along the way, while he was washing all of that stuff off of him, he'd gotten over the fact that they were naked. It wasn't like they'd never seen each other au naturale; they might as well have been standing out in the room, fully clothed.

"Sam," Dean began softly. "You feel like telling me what happened last night now?"

"You still don't remember anything?" Sam replied, folding his arms over his chest in a way that made it look like he was hugging himself.

"Not really," Dean admitted. "A couple things have popped back to the surface, but..." He let his hands drop from Sam's shoulders and tapped one of his temples with two fingers. "I must've been on one hell of a bender last night."

"You were," Sam replied, a dry note in his voice. Dean felt triumphant - actual feeling. "Tell me what you do remember."

"Well, I remember I was drunk," Dean began. He caught a slight eye roll from Sam. "And...there was a barn. Real bloody inside. It stank." He swallowed, hard, as an uncomfortable realization dawned on him. "It reminded me of Hell."

"That's a pretty accurate analogy, actually," Sam replied. He hesitated, looking away. A little bit of space had sprung up between them while Dean was washing him, but Sam got rid of that now, leaning against Dean and resting his chin on his shoulder again. Dean put his arms around him, suppressing a sigh of resignation. It was kind of nice to be close like this, though. He had to admit. "I guess I owe it to you to fill in the gaps."

"You don't owe me anything," Dean responded immediately, shaking his head as best he could with Sam's right next to it. Reluctantly, he added, "I do kinda need to know what happened, though."

"I know," Sam replied quietly. Dean felt and heard him swallow. "We met up at a bar. All eight of us. We drank - yesterday was kind of a long day, and we still didn't really have a plan, and Nick and Jesse were buying."

"Right." Nick and Jesse. Dean wasn't even surprised that they'd gotten them all drunk; he'd had a hunch that something about those two wasn't kosher since day one.

"We were all over the edge after awhile," Sam continued. "Even I was tipsy, and I'd only been drinking beer. That was when Nick and Jesse said they had something to show us. Just outside of town."

"Really."

"They drove us all out there. Jesse was still pretty sober," Sam said. "You said you remembered the barn. That was where they took us."

"So what was in there?" Dean asked. "What'd they wanna show us?"

He didn't really want to know, and he got the feeling that Sam didn't really want to tell him, either. But neither of them had much of a choice, Dean knew. Not if they wanted to deal with this. So Sam swallowed again and kept going.

"Vampires," he said. "They had at least two of the nests we found out there. I don't know how they got all of them, with just two guys, but they had them. And they'd been...torturing them. For a week, at least. Maybe longer."

Dean remembered. All of a sudden, with no real warning. It was like being kicked in the stomach. They'd hauled the barn doors open, ushered them in, lit lanterns, they'd been drunk, it had smelled awful, there'd been a young woman chained to a rickety chair in front of them, her back to them, her head dangling down because she was almost completely decapitated, only her spinal cord left, and she had opened her eyes and her lips had trembled...

No wonder Sam needed to be held.

"Nick and Jesse haven't been here a week," he replied.

"They told us they hadn't," Sam corrected.

"Okay." Dean cleared his throat. "G - " His voice cracked, and he stopped. That hadn't happened in awhile. "Go ahead and keep going." He needed to know.

"Most of them were dead," Sam replied. "I guess they'd gotten tired of them, or they went too far with them, or something like that. They'd piled them in the stables. That's probably where a lot of the smell was coming from; vampires rot just like anything else when you kill them."

"Yeah," Dean replied, remembering digging up Benny's nearly-clean bones twelve hours out of Purgatory. "I know."

"But a few of them were still alive," Sam said, like Dean hadn't spoke up. "They had them chained to chairs, to the walls. Full of dead man's blood, too, so they couldn't move at all. And there was...they were all hurt. Bad. It made me sick." His grip on Dean tightened. His fingernails dug into the skin at the small of his back, but Dean didn't complain. "They wanted all of us to pick up where they had left off. They said there was plenty more where these had come from. They were - they were laughing, they were making jokes, telling us what their favorite things to do with them were. It was like they thought we'd be excited about this whole thing. Like we'd think it was fun or something."

Sam's voice had gone bitter and disgusted, and it was a relief to Dean that he was reacting again. Whatever had ultimately happened in that barn, it hadn't broken him beyond all repair. Dean chewed on the inside of his lower lip, but stopped the second he tasted a hint of something metallic. That wasn't a flavor he wanted in his mouth right now.

"So did we do what they wanted?" he asked Sam.

"No," Sam answered, but before Dean's relief could fully settle (despite the fact that he'd woken up covered from head to toe in blood this morning), he added, "Not at first, anyway."

"We held back?" Dean asked.

"Four of us did."

"So who started the party?" Dean asked. The sarcasm in his voice was a knee-jerk reaction. Defensive, Sam'd probably say if he was in a psychiatric mood right now. "Was it the Russians? I bet it was the Russians."

"No, actually," Sam replied. "I know you don't like them - "

"I can't fucking understand them," Dean interrupted. "And they're weird as hell. Never stop touching each other."

Sam drew back a little, making eye contact with Dean, then made a point of looking exaggeratedly down at their chests, which were touching. Dean scowled.

"Shut up," he said, fully aware that Sam hadn't actually said anything.

"Dmitri and Fyodor held out almost as long as we did," Sam said, moving on. "Gary and Wyatt practically jumped at the chance. They were the first ones."

"Course they were." The Russians were weird, sure, but at least Dean didn't feel like he had to be constantly looking over his shoulder when he was with them. They were brothers, like him and Sam, but they were only separated by a few minutes instead of four years. Gary and Wyatt, on the other hand, gave him the serious creeps. Or Gary did, more accurately, since he was definitely in charge and Wyatt pretty much didn't say anything and did whatever he wanted him to. Gary wasn't quite like Nick and Jesse, though. He didn't give off quite the same vibe.

"We gave in eventually, though," Sam said dispassionately. "We did what they wanted us to. For hours. Then they brought us back here and you passed out because they'd had more alcohol stashed out at the barn, but I couldn't sleep."

Dean could see how he might've gone along with Nick and Jesse's twisted little carnival game if he'd been alone. After all, he was the sick one. He'd been to Hell and he remembered it. He had a background in torture, mentored by a true master of the art. And sometimes he got an itch. When it'd been so damn easy to cut a little more than he strictly had to, or when he could excuse pulling out teeth and fingernails as necessary for an interrogation, or when something was already weak and hurting and all he'd have to do to send its pain skyrocketing was put a little pressure on part of it...

But Sam had been there. And he kept him honest.

"Because there were four of them," Sam replied. "And even if we'd known for sure that the Russians were on our side, they outgunned us, with all the stuff they had in that place. Plus, I'm pretty sure we'd already figured out that Nick and Jesse were completely batshit. You remember that barn - there was blood splashed more than halfway up the walls. If we'd dug our heels in, there's every chance they'd've chained us up next to those vampires."

"So you're saying we broke 'cause we were scared. Then why didn't we just leave?" Dean demanded.

"And how far would we've gotten with Nick and Jesse on our asses?" Sam countered. "We didn't have the Impala. We wouldn't've had the time to hotwire their car. And if we'd just struck out on foot...it was dark and we'd been drinking. We wouldn't have stood a chance."

"But they let us go," Dean pointed out.

"After we finished off the vampires they'd been saving for us," Sam replied. "Because we're part of this now. We're like them."

Dean's stomach quivered, like he'd eaten something that was about a week past its expiration date. It was a sensation he'd had to endure pretty frequently; they hadn't had a lot of money when he was younger, and he'd taken what he could get when he was hungry.

"Hey," he said. He peeled Sam away from himself and held him at arm's length, hands on his broad shoulders. This way, they took up almost all of the space in the tub. "No. You listen to me, Sam." Sam blinked at him. He looked exhausted, dark, swollen bags standing out under his eyes. He needed to sleep. "We are nothing like those two. We're not even like Gary and Wyatt. We did what we had to, and nothing else. We didn't enjoy it."

Sam didn't respond. His eyes, a watery gray right now, slid away from Dean's. Dean squeezed his shoulders more tightly.

"Right?" he pressed. "We didn't like it, did we?"

"I don't know, Dean," Sam replied tiredly. "I don't know right now." He reached up and put his hands over Dean's, closing his eyes. "We should get outta here. They're gonna bill us for the water."

Dean turned the shower off. They climbed out and toweled themselves dry. Sam stayed so close that Dean could feel the heat coming off of him, but he didn't say anything about it. Out in the bedroom, they dressed out of their bags, and Dean noticed that not only had Sam stripped the ruined comforter and pillows off of his bed, he'd also already dumped bleach onto the stains on the floor. The room stank of that now instead of blood. Dean thought it was an improvement.

"What're we gonna do now?" Sam asked, buttoning up a flannel over a maroon T-shirt. Dean glanced at him in surprise. Since when had Sam looked to him and him alone for leadership? Maybe he'd made some really bad decisions last night and no longer trusted his own judgement. Dean really wanted to know exactly what the two of them had done, but he was reluctant to push Sam to tell him.

"Well, let's start small," Dean suggested. "You clearly need to get some sleep."

Sam pushed his tongue into one of his cheeks, then shook his head. "I'm not sure that that's such a good idea."

"I'll lay down with you," Dean replied. "Wake you up if anything happens." Or if it became apparent that Sam was having a nightmare. "But I think it's gonna be smooth sailing until tonight. Even if the other nests are pissed at us, vampires don't like to run around out in the sun. And Nick and Jesse are probably still sleeping off last night."

Sam swallowed. "What happens tonight?"

"We'll figure that out when it comes." The gun and the needle were still sitting on the nightstand, but Sam must have wiped them off, because the blood was gone from the gun's grips. Dean picked it up (it was his gun, after all) and used it to gesture to the bed that still had all its coverings. "C'mon."

Sam hesitated, and he was reluctant about it, but he did go and lay down. Dean climbed onto the bed beside him. On impulse, he rolled over onto his side, pressed his chest against Sam's back, and put his left arm over him, so they were spooning. He folded his right arm under himself after stashing his gun under the pillow his head was resting on.

Sam didn't protest the position. In fact, he scooted back a little so they were even closer.

How long had it been since they'd laid like this? At least since Dad had bluntly told them that normal brothers didn't touch as much as they did and they'd started making a conscious effort to put some distance between themselves...whatever. Dean didn't want to think about that right now.

"Least it was vampires," he mumbled, practically talking into Sam's hair. "Not people. Thank god for small miracles, huh?"

"Just shut the fuck up, Dean," Sam replied at a normal volume. The acid in his voice almost sent Dean jerking reflexively back.

"What?" he asked blankly.

"You and I both know that's bullshit. It's not going to make either of us feel any better," Sam responded. "You were friends with one. Hell, you were one, for awhile. So if know that what I pulled the lungs out of last night was a person, then you for sure should, too."

Sam hadn't moved an inch during his little speech. Dean licked his lips, feeling pretty thoroughly reprimanded.

"They were murderers," he pointed out anyway.

"So are we," Sam replied flatly, grabbing the hand Dean had against his chest and squeezing it tight in both of his own.

Chapter Text

It was dark. The only light shone down from high above, onto a plan, rectangular wooden table. There was a butcher knife on it. It was clean, and looked freshly sharpened.

Dean stood in front of the table, staring down at the knife. He looked up, and made eye contact with Sam, who was standing directly across from him. Sam wasn't wearing a shirt. Dean realized he wasn't, either.

Sam, not looking away from him, reached for the knife. He picked it up. The blade scraped softly against the smooth grain of the table, and he offered it to Dean, handle-first. Dean took it. It was heavier than he'd expected, like it was made of solid iron.

He already had one hand around the black nylon handle, and he wrapped the other over it. He set the point of the blade directly below his navel. Just above the button of his jeans. He pushed and felt it pop easily past the skin and the thin layer of fat and the muscles. It didn't hurt. He pulled it up, all the way up, unzipping himself from his groin to the hollow of his throat. It was easier than cutting through butter and he didn't bleed. He kept his eyes locked on Sam's the whole time. Neither of them blinked.

Dean laid the knife off to the side of the table when he was done. Despite the fact that so much as a drop hadn't leaked out of him, the blade and handle were both slick with cold blood. Sam blinked now, slowly.

Dean hooked the fingers of both hands under the edges of the incision he'd made and pulled them apart to expose the contents of his torso. He held his skin back like he was holding open a jacket.

Sam reached across the table, reached inside Dean. He tugged on something and it came easily free, like it had never been attached in the first place. He leaned back with Dean's large intestine in his hands and laid it gently on his side of the table. He reached for Dean again then.

Sam worked his way steadily up. Small intestine, kidneys, stomach. He swung the two halves of Dean's ribcage soundlessly open when he reached it, like a well-oiled gate. Spleen, lungs, heart. It still didn't hurt. It wasn't even uncomfortable.

Sam laid everything out in a neat line as he removed it. Large intestine at one end, heart at the other. When he was finished and Dean was empty, he stopped, looking at him again. Dean nudged his ribs closed and let his skin fall back together. The incision closed instantly and left behind a thin black scar. Or maybe it was a crack; he couldn't tell.

Dean picked up the knife and offered it, handle-first, to Sam. It was still bloody. He took it with both hands, put the point right under his navel, and started to push.

Dean waited, ready to reach into his younger brother and empty him out.

Chapter Text

The first thing Dean registered was a steady, pounding beat. Something meaty but firm thudding rhythmically against wood. It took him a couple seconds to interpret that sound as someone knocking patiently on the door to their room, and when he realized that, he also realized that he was sitting up, eyes open, and using both hands to point his gun directly at the source of the sound. He sucked in a deep breath that stuttered and hitched a little on its way into his lungs and lowered the gun, but he didn't relax.

He glanced down at Sam. Part of him hoped that he was still asleep, but, of course, he wasn't. Dean realized he didn't know that Sam had even fallen asleep. He definitely had. He got the feeling he'd dreamed, too, but he didn't remember it.

"Who is that?" Sam asked. He was looking at him. His hair was a mess, from laying on it while it was still wet. Dean was sure he didn't look much better. As he watched, Sam's eyes slid down to the gun that was still in his hands.

"How the hell would I know?" Dean replied. He swung his legs off the edge of the bed. He blinked when he stood up and a wave of light-headedness washed over him. His knees trembled, too, and he had to resist the urge to grab onto the nightstand with his free hand. The weakness was as unexpected as waking up with blood all over himself had been. Maybe he should have eaten something earlier, even if his stomach had been turning somersaults inside of him.

Once he'd recovered, he headed towards the door with the gun still at the ready, held down at his side. "Stay there, Sam."

"No." He heard the mattress creak as Sam scrambled off the bed, and he was aware of him coming up behind him, practically pressing against him as he walked to the door. Like a protective dog. Dean didn't bother arguing with him.

Unlike most of the seedy motels they had stayed in, this one didn't have a peephole on its door, so God help anybody who wanted to be selective about who they let into their rooms. Like him and Sam, incidentally. The knocking hadn't stopped while they were getting out of bed and coming over and the rhythm hadn't changed, which was just downright weird. Dean glanced over his shoulder at Sam, who looked both anxious and tired, then unlocked the door. Raising his gun so that he could use it immediately if he needed to, he twisted the knob and pulled the door open just enough to peer through.

His guard dropped by a fraction of a percent when he saw it wasn't Nick and Jesse out there, or Gary and Wyatt. It was the Russians. Sam had said that they'd been pretty reluctant to start cutting into the vampires, so they should be safe. But Dean didn't lower the gun, or open the door any further.

"Winchesters," one of the Russians greeted in a heavy accent that he was obviously trying to control. Dean couldn't tell which one; they were standing side by side, elbows firmly touching, and they looked exactly alike. Tall, solid, and clean-shaven, their wheat-colored hair cut identically short and their brown eyes heavy-lidded. They were clean, wearing T-shirts and jeans. No sign of blood, but Dean assumed they'd washed up before leaving...wherever it was they were staying.

"Hi," Dean replied, not in a friendly mood. The Russians' hands were empty, but he had no doubt that they had weapons stashed all over themselves. They were hunters, after all. "What d'you want?"

"To say goodbye," the Russian responded. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans. His brother mimicked the gesture. Their elbows were still touching. "We're leaving. It only seems polite to let you know."

"Yeah?" Dean was aware of Sam looking over his shoulder. "How 'bout the others? Did you already let them know?" He kept his voice hostile as he tried to figure out what was going on.

The Russian smirked. Dean couldn't see any actual amusement in the expression. "Of course not. We never want to see them again, and I'm sure you can understand why. We definitely don't want them to follow us - that's why we're not going to tell them that we're leaving."

"Sounds like you've got it all figured out," Dean replied. One of Sam's arms fell almost absentmindedly around his waist, his hand resting on one of Dean's hips, and Dean hoped that he didn't have too weird of an expression on his face because of it. "Welp." He cleared his throat and adjusted his grip on the gun. "Thanks for stopping by."

He moved to close the door, but the Russian stopped him with a somehow-authoritative "Wait." Dean did, grudgingly. He eyed the two of them suspiciously. He could feel Sam's warm breath puffing down onto his scalp, but without any more clues than that, he couldn't tell what he was feeling.

"What?" Dean snapped, feeling pretty impatient. He didn't like leaving the door open for so long. "Spit it out."

The Russian eyed him with what might've been irritation, but with the two of them, it was a little difficult to tell. He began, "Dmitri and I aren't strangers to cruelty."

So it was Fyodor who'd been doing all of the talking. Now that Dean thought about it, he was pretty sure that only one of them had ever talked at a time - maybe it was always Fyodor. Maybe Dmitri was mute.

"We were born in Kiev," Fyodor continued. "Something attacked our family when we were young and killed our parents. I never learned exactly what. But there were no monsters in the U.S.S.R. at that time - just like there were no serial killers. So the authorities went to great lengths to keep us from talking about what we'd seen."

Dean didn't reply this time. Just stared coldly at the Russians - both of them, not just Fyodor - and made sure that his gun hand stayed at the ready and Sam stayed behind him. Everything was dangerous now, and he was the big brother. He had to protect him.

"Last night was exceptional, though," Fyodor continued. "In terms of cruelty, at least. We remember relatively little, but we know what happened."

"Same here," Dean responded. "Did you just come here to waste my time? 'Cause you're kinda giving me a headache. That accent of yours ain't easy to listen to, y'know."

Something that stopped just short of being a smile crossed Fyodor's mouth. "I've been told my English is very good."

"I'm about ten seconds away from shooting you in the leg," Dean replied. He was hungry, tired, confused, and freaked out. He didn't have a lot of patience at the best of times, but it was thinner than this motel's pillows right now.

"We came here to tell you we're leaving and to urge you to do the same," Fyodor replied. Dean filed this evidence of threats working pretty well on him away for future reference.

"You think we should get the hell outta Dodge, huh?" he asked. Fyodor leaned in. Dean tensed, but it was clear the gesture hadn't been meant to be threatening, and he couldn't really justify shooting him.

"We all did something truly awful last night," Fyodor stated, lowering his voice. "I'd go so far as to call it 'monstrous.' But it wasn't unforgivable. We didn't know what we were getting into when we went with those two, and we only gave into them out of fear for our lives. We're victims. But if we went back again tonight and did it again..." Fyodor trailed off. Dean waited for him to continue, and eventually, he did. "That would be different."

Dean rested his elbow against the doorframe and rubbed his face with his free hand. Dropping it, he cleared his throat and looked at Fyodor again.

"Well, thanks for the ethics lesson, Vladimir and Joseph," Dean said, forcing a smile. It was harder than he'd expected it to be. "But I don't think we're gonna be leaving." He'd actually been considering just skipping town and doing their damnedest to put all this behind them, despite his innate distrust of the Russians and everything they suggested. But as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew he meant them. "We can't just walk away from this."

"Not even to save your soul?" Fyodor asked, raising an eyebrow. He flinched like he'd been slapped when a laugh burst out of Dean, loud and savage. Dean couldn't blame him. It startled him, too.

"Oh, brother, I already know exactly where I'm going when I die," he said with a grin once the laughter was gone. "And I really doubt any amount of running away's gonna change that. I figure the best I can do is destroy as much evil as possible before something manages to put me in the ground for good, and what Nick and Jesse are doing out in that barn - " He pointed in a random direction, sure it was wrong. " - is definitely evil." He dropped his hand, letting his palm smack against his denim-covered thigh. "So we're gonna stop it."

Fyodor looked him up and down, appraising him with...well, it was hard to tell, again, but Dean thought that it might be respect on his face. Or something close to it, at least. Dmitri was looking at him, too, but he still wasn't talking, and Dean wasn't even going to take a guess at what he was thinking.

"You're like us," Fyodor told Dean, "but that doesn't mean you're damned. Still, I admire your philosophy - and your commitment. Good luck." Fyodor turned around. Dmitri moved with him - it was like they shared a brain or something. "Whether you succeed or not, I sincerely hope we never meet again."

Dean shared that sentiment, but instead of saying that, he asked, "What d'you mean, we're like you?" Fyodor didn't answer as he and Dmitri walked back towards their car. Dean could have repeated the question, but then he realized that what Fyodor had meant just didn't matter all that much to him. After all, they were probably never going to see these guys again. So Dean let them go. He closed the door, and firmly locked it again.

"Well, that was a waste of time," he announced, holding his gun loosely with his thumb and index finger as he rubbed his closed eyes with the heels of his hands. The pressure made his eyeballs ache, but it kind of felt good, too.

"Not like we were doing anything important," Sam pointed out. Dean let his hands drop and squinted at him through an avalanche of pulsating colors.

"We were sleeping," he replied as the colors faded away. "That was kind of important. We need to be rested up for tonight."

"Just what're you planning to do tonight?" Sam asked him, walking away from the door and back over to the bed. Or maybe "wandering" was a better word than "walking."

"Exactly what I told the Russians we were gonna do," Dean replied, following Sam as the calculating part of his mind finally kicked itself into gear and started churning out plans. They needed to sleep some more, since it was just barely past noon judging by the light outside, but they also needed to get something to eat. Something to drink, too. Dean didn't like the idea of going into battle on shaky legs and an empty stomach. "Put an end to what's been happening out in that barn."

"Really?" Sam asked, turning to look at Dean. Dean felt a spark of irritation.

"Yes, really," he snapped. "What the hell is wrong with you? You're Mr. Social Justice. Gordon had you throwing up in your mouth even before we knew all of what he was capable of. Why aren't you chomping at the bit to take Nick and Jesse down?"

Sam licked his lips, then looked away. "I think it'd be safer to just leave town. Like Fyodor and Dmitri were doing."

"You're fine with all the others getting their rocks off by torturing vampires?" Dean demanded. He was uncomfortable because this wasn't his job. Usually, Sam was the one trying to convince him to do the right thing.

"Dean, I just don't - " Sam reached up and covered his face with both hands. His voice came out muffled. "I can't do it again." He dragged his hands up, over his hair. There were deep lines of worry and stress etched into his face. "What we did last night. I can't."

"We're not gonna end up doing that," Dean promised. Goddamn, he wished he remembered.

"You think they'll just let us opt out if we show up?" Sam asked, dropping his hands. "If we go out there, we won't stop them. They'll make it so we end up doing it all over again. You don'tremember, but I do." His face twisted, like he was about to double over and throw up all over the floor. "There wasn't anything wrong with it when we did itNot much, at least. Seemed like the best thing to do at the time."

It looked like he was in pain, saying that. Like he was dragging the words up out of the very deepest parts of himself, where they'd put down strong roots. Dean let out a soft breath.

"Sam," he said, and opened his arms without hesitation. Nothing weird about hugging his brother when he was this torn up about something. "C'mere."

Sam hesitated, but not for long. As soon as they were back in almost exactly the same position they'd been in while they were in the shower, Dean gave Sam a gentle squeeze, and started stroking his hair. It was still funny, sticking up all over the place. They should probably do something about that before they left, too.

"It's gonna be okay," Dean promised. That was something he must have said a million times while they were growing up. "We're not gonna be drunk this time. We know what we're going there to do. You won't have to hurt anybody who doesn't deserve it. Not tonight."

"Hope you've got some kind of a plan," Sam mumbled. "You're gonna end up chained down with them standing over you, otherwise. And I can't watch that."

Dean chuckled a little. "You're not worried what they'd do to you?"

"At that point, it won't matter," Sam replied before pulling away from Dean. He grabbed one of his hands. "Let's go back to sleep."

Dean let himself be guided the few steps over to the bed. As he sat down on the edge of the mattress, he remembered what Fyodor had said again. "Hey." Sam was already laying down, and he glanced at him. "What d'you think he meant when he said we were like them? Theodore."

"Fyodor," Sam corrected. It sounded automatic. "I really don't know, Dean. He probably just meant we're brothers. So are they."

"Yeah, but why would I think I was going to Hell 'cause we're brothers?" Dean asked.

"You're the one who said we needed to be well-rested for tonight," Sam pointed out. "Lay down, and stop talking. And..." He paused, then sighed. "Put an arm over me again."

Dean arched an eyebrow. Sam wasn't even looking at him, but Dean guessed he knew him well enough to know what he was doing.

"I don't even care if you make fun of me. I just need to be touched right now."

Dean didn't say anything. He laid down and held Sam close to his chest, just like he had when they were kids and one of them had a nightmare. He wasn't sure how, exactly, it made him feel, Sam needing him to take care of him again. But at least it was comforting on some level.

"We're gonna make it through this," he told Sam. "We're gonna look back on this in a few years, and we're gonna be proud of it."

"I think I just wanna forget all about this when we're done," Sam replied.

"Well...you can do that, too."

Chapter Text

As the day wore on, more and more came back to Dean from last night. A lot of it hit him while he was asleep, which really sucked, because it came through as nightmares that way. At least when he was awake, he could focus on polishing his guns or ordering pizza or making Sam brush his hair, and shove the memories to the back of his mind.

While he was sleeping with his arm over Sam, he remembered forcing a vampire's mouth open with some kind of backwards clamp that looked like equipment an insane dentist would use. Ripping out the human teeth with wet, meaty crunching sounds, while the vamp gurgled out blood because Nick and Jesse had already sawed his tongue off at the base. Putting a fingertip, pinpricked and bleeding, under his nose to get his fangs to descend. Pulling those out, too, wiggling them around in their bruised sockets because the pliers he was using were slick with blood and he couldn't get a good grip, until they came free with nerves and strings of pulped flesh dangling from their roots. Dropping them, one by one, into a blood-spattered bucket that was already half-full of teeth, sharp and flat both.

Nick and Jesse had been joking around behind him as he worked. Talking about making necklaces out of them, and handing them out to everybody they got to come to this place and play with their monsters. Proof of membership in a club.

Dean remembered meticulously making incisions up and down another vampire's arm. Seaming it like the skin was a glove from fingertips to shoulders, and then slipping the tip of his knife - an actual flensing knife, funnily enough - under the edge of one of those cuts. He'd peeled that arm up as far as he could, leaving the skin hanging down from the front and back of the shoulder in two arm-shape strips and the arm itself wet with blood and gnarled with bare muscles and veins.

Alastair had taught him that, skinning. It'd been one of his favorite techniques. He must have learned it from Lucifer, because Castiel had heavily implied that that'd been one of the many things he did to Sam down in the Cage.

Nick and Jesse had pried the lower jaw right off one of the other remaining vampires. Dean remembered that, too. According to them, they'd yanked on it until something snapped, using a tire iron for leverage, and then just kept pulling and yanking it from side to side until the muscles and ligaments and finally even the skin tore. Dean also remembered one of them handing him a baling hook. He put it in the vampire's gaping maw, down his raw throat. All the way, pushing past resistance, until he hit a sphincter that just wouldn't open for him. Then he dug the hook into something and pulled it up. He dragged the vampire's GI tract out through the ragged, lopsided hole that had used to be his mouth, turning him inside-out stomach-first. He'd given out pretty early, dying around the time Dean ripped the upper end of his esophagus out of its moorings in a spray of blood and stomach acid, but Nick and Jesse and Gary and Wyatt loved it anyway. Couldn't believe how fucking creative he was.

Dean didn't want to go back to that barn. But it was the closest thing to Hell he'd seen since Castiel hauled him up, and he'd never be able to sleep again if he let it go on existing.

Chapter Text

"You're gonna need to give me directions to this place," Dean told Sam as he yanked open the driver's side door of the Impala. "I remember a hell of a lot more of what we did there now, but I'm still drawing a blank on exactly how we got there." He grabbed the top of the car and slung himself into the seat, rocking the whole frame on its wheels. "Can you do that? Tell me where to go?"

Sam didn't answer. When Dean leaned out of the car again to try and figure out where he was, he saw that he wasn't even looking at him. He was standing about five feet away from the Impala's passenger side, facing in a direction that looked totally random to Dean. Dean did his best to rein in his impatience. Now that he remembered some of what they'd done last night, he guessed had to expect Sam to be a little...off.

"Sam?" Dean asked. This time, he looked at him, glancing over his shoulder. That was a good sign.

"I'm still not sure about this," he replied quietly. Dean could barely hear him, but then again, he knew his eardrums were in rough shape. What with all the gunshots and loud music.

Dean, still leaning out of the driver's seat, raised an eyebrow. "What's not to be sure about? We're fighting the good fight here," he pointed out. "Plus, we're armed to the teeth." He patted one of the knives he'd slipped inside his jacket.

"I just have a bad feeling about it," Sam replied. Reluctantly, he made his way over to the car and pulled open the door. "But, yeah." He dropped into the passenger seat, folding his long legs up underneath the dashboard. "I think I can give you directions."

"Great," Dean said, pulling his door shut. "That's all I needed to know."

The sun was setting, the slanting orange rays making the traffic signs hard to see as Dean drove. Luckily, the town was small, and Sam directed him out of it within a few minutes. They coasted down the rural roads, past farmland and cows and barns that were much nicer than the one Dean remembered from last night. After about twenty minutes, he started to think that, maybe, Sam was stalling him, having him drive around God's nowhere land. Then they got to where they were going.

The sun had sunk below the flat horizon by the time Dean finally pulled up to the barn. It was a huge, black shape against a dull red-and-orange sky, and Dean was really trying to stay positive, but he couldn't shake the impression of a crouching predator. He decided not to share that with Sam.

There were already two cars parked in the weed-filled gravel that surrounded the barn. Dean recognized both of them. Gary and Wyatt's chunky little Honda CR-V, and Nick and Jesse's scraped-up Dodge truck. Looking at that, Dean wondered how the hell they'd gotten them all out here last night. Had they ridden in the bed?

Dean parked, and then they just sat there for a while, listening to the engine tick as it cooled down. Staring at the barn. Dean couldn't tell if there were lights on inside of it or not, but it wasn't like it mattered. They were clearly in there already.

Sam was the first to break the silence. "They know we're here."

"Course they do," Dean replied. He'd taken his hands off the steering wheel to pull the keys out of the ignition, but now he stroked it fondly. "Baby's got one sexy purr."

Sam took a deep breath and then slowly let it out, not looking at Dean in the murky interior of the car. He didn't say anything, but Dean thought he understood. Humor might've helped in any other situation. This one was just too tense.

"Sam, I really hope I don't have to give you another pep talk," Dean said, sobering as he shook his head "'Cause I'm kinda scraping the bottom of the barrel with those."

"No, I'm fine," Sam assured him. Dean couldn't see much in the rapidly-increasing gloom, but he could tell that Sam tugged up his shirt then and pulled out the handgun he'd shoved into the waistband of his jeans back in the room. Dean heard a click as he turned off the safety. "But if we're going to kill them, I want Jesse."

Dean frowned. He hadn't been expecting that. "How come?"

"He made me eat a piece of the vampire they had me working on," Sam replied, shoving his door open and slipping out of the car.

Dean followed him. Their boots crunched on the gravel, the impossible loudness of it making him grit his teeth as they walked up to the big front doors of the barn. He tugged his own gun out and held it down at his side. He didn't ask what piece Sam had had to eat. He didn't ask him if he'd tried to throw it up when they got back to the room, either. Or if it had been too late by that point.

They were only a few feet away from the doors when one of them swung open with a creak that just about gave Dean a heart attack, spilling a dim reddish light onto the gravel. Dean stopped in his tracks, and Sam did the same, tensing beside him. Somebody was standing in the doorway. After a few seconds, the figure resolved itself into a grinning Nick, holding a sawed-off. As soon as he aw it, Dean knew that the shot would hit both him and Sam in the chest if he pulled the trigger. And he really doubted that it would be salt rounds smacking into them.

"About time you two got here," Nick said by way of a greeting, his friendly tone at serious odds with the gun he had pointed at them. He was about as tall as Dean and a good five or six years older, compensating for his thinning hair by growing it out longer than Sam's. He was a committed chain-smoker, and if Dean hadn't been able to smell it on him the first time they'd met, his teeth would have been a dead giveaway. "We've been waiting for hours. Can't get started without you."

"Well, ain't that polite of you," Dean said sarcastically. He wasn't sure if he should raise his hands or not, but Nick cleared it up in the next second.

"Drop the gun, cocksuck," Nick replied. "Your brother, too. Then both of you put your hands up and get on in here, real slow."

Dean liked his lungs without about a hundred pieces of buckshot in each one, so he let his gun drop onto the gravel and weeds. He heard a clink and some crunching next to him as Sam did the same. They lifted their hands (in unison, Dean noted as he glanced over at his brother) and walked forward. Sam's pace was slow, obviously reluctant, and Dean matched it. Nick backed up to let them in the barn.

The smell was way, way worse than Dean remembered it being. It probably would have been easier on his nose if he'd just sprinted face-first into a brick wall. The contents of his stomach did their best to climb up his throat, and he started to really regret the pizza. He tried breathing through his mouth, but that didn't help, because it was so thick he could taste it. Rotting flesh, spoiled blood, ruptured bowels, vomit, concentrated misery. Anyone who said emotions didn't have scents had never been in a torture chamber.

There were work lamps hanging on the walls at uneven intervals and heights. Dean didn't recall seeing those last night, but he guessed they hadn't been running around cutting up vampires in the dark. Their plastic panes were splashed and smeared with congealed blood in many places, which was what was dimming the light and giving it its reddish-brown tinge. It was still bright enough for Dean to see, though, that there weren't any vampires.

Jesse, Gary, and Wyatt were sitting in the chairs that the vamps had been chained to last night, relaxed and comfortable. They were passing around a bottle of what Dean assumed, going by the color, was whiskey; the label had been torn off. And they all had guns, more or less pointed in Sam and Dean's general direction. Fan-fucking-tastic.

Jesse glanced casually over at them, like he'd just barely noticed they were there, and smiled. Dean doubted he'd been all dressed up last night, but now, he was wearing a gray suit that he probably used for the FBI ruse Dean knew he pulled out regularly. His dark hair was combed back and slicked down with gel, but the well-groomed look was ruined by his open jacket and loosened tie. He stood up and spread his arms in welcome.

"Boys," he greeted happily. "So nice of you to join us. Guess you didn't bring Fyodor and Dmitri with you?"

"We thought they'd be here," Sam replied before Dean could say anything. Not that he would have sold the Russians out, either.

"They're not, unfortunately," Jesse said. It sounded like he was going to say something else, but Gary interrupted him.

"Chickenshit, probably," he suggested, before laughing. "Wouldn't be surprised if they're holed up in the nearest Orthodox church, prayin' their red hearts out." He was holding the whiskey bottle, and took a messy swig from it as he spread his legs. Dean looked down at his feet, and - yep, he was still wearing his stupid cowboy boots, which Dean hadn't seen him out of in all the time they'd been working together. Never mind the fact that he had about as much as a Southwestern twang as Sam did. "Couldn't handle a little grown-up fun, I guess."

From the expression on Jesse's face, Gary getting completely wasted hadn't been part of the plan. He recovered quickly, though.

"It doesn't really matter where they are," he said. "We wanted you two more, anyway."

"Aw, stop," Dean replied. "You're gonna make me blush." He hesitated, then glanced around the barn, gearing up to ask a question. Worst case, he'd get them both shot. No big deal. "Where're the vampires?"

"Oh, they're all dead," Jesse replied, shrugging. "You made sure of that last night. I'd ask if you remembered, but after how much I watched you drink, I think I know the answer."

"Yeah, I'm real sorry about that. I usually hold my liquor much better," Dean said. "By the way. Can we put our hands down, Pat Bateman? My arms are getting tired."

"In a minute," Jesse responded. "We're going to go find ourselves some more fun, soon. Raid another nest. But I want you to do something first." He pointed at Dean. Dean had started to get used to the reek in the barn, but now his stomach lurched again.

"Do I even wanna know?" he asked. Sam looked at him, face blank again, but didn't say anything. Maybe he was afraid of antagonizing them.

"Oh, don't worry, it'll be fun," Jesse assured. He glanced at Nick, standing off to the side with his shotgun still held at the ready. Nick lowered the gun and walked deeper into the barn, where a bunch of rusty metal had been gathered up into a haphazard pile. "You'll like it."

"I doubt that," Dean replied honestly. He couldn't imagine that anything Jesse thought was "fun" wouldn't be sickening. Watching Nick, he saw him pick up a piece of metal, and realized that they were chains. Probably the ones they'd been using on the vampires, because the rust was actually blood.

"I haven't even told you what it is yet," Jesse scolded. He was holding his gun loosely, almost absentmindedly, and Dean watched as the muzzle swung randomly back and forth between him and Sam. "Christ, Winchester. You're such a pessimist."

Stepping forward, he grabbed onto Sam's bicep and gave it a yank. Sam's eyes fell closed, and he just went with Jesse, for some godforsaken reason. Dean's arms dropped and his hands went into his jacket when Jesse pushed Sam down into the chair he'd been sitting in when they first came in. He hadn't even got one of the weapons stashed in there out, though, when he caught sight of the gun that Gary seemed to have leveled, perfectly steady, at his left eye. Maybe he wasn't as drunk as Dean had thought.

"Move another inch and I'll ruin that pretty face of yours," Gary said. "Then you'll be rotting in the back with those vampires, and we'll let your brother entertain us tonight instead of going out and looking for new ones." Dean listened, then glanced at Wyatt, sitting next to Gary. He didn't seem to be paying any attention at all to what was going on around him. He had a gun resting on one thigh, just barely aimed in Dean's general direction, and was staring blankly down at it. Dried blood matted a couple sections of his otherwise clean-looking hair. It reminded Dean eerily of what Sam had been like that morning.

As he watched, Gary gave Wyatt a vicious kick in the ankle with one of his cowboy boots. Wyatt jerked, like he was waking up, and pointed the gun at Dean. Meanwhile, Nick was kneeling behind Sam's chair, binding his hands together, and Jesse was supervising.

Jesse turned his attention back to Dean when Nick moved on to Sam's ankles. Sam's eyes were still closed and he might as well have been a rag doll, for all the fight he was putting up. Dean wanted to walk over there and take a swing at him, tell him to snap the hell of it, but if he tried that, Gary'd blow a hole in his head.

"Could you take your jacket off?" Jesse asked. "I'd really prefer it if you used our weapons."

Today was, apparently, just a great day for Dean to feel like he was going to puke. He started shaking his head before Jesse had even finished talking. "No. No way."

"Calm down," Jesse said, rolling his eyes. "We don't want you to kill him or anything. Or even hurt him that badly. Just enough so that he sees things our way."

"What?" Dean asked, not understanding. Not taking off his jacket, either.

"Look, Dean," Jesse began. "Last night, when Nick and me weren't busy showing you six the ropes here, we were watching you. We talked it over later. And it was blatantly obvious to both of us that you were really enjoying yourself. You took to carving up those bloodsuckers like a fish to water - actually, it almost looked like you'd had practice with this sort of thing before." Dean must have twitched involuntarily or something in response to that, because Jesse smiled in a knowing way before glancing down at Sam. "Your brother, on the other hand, is a different story, and what's the point in doing this if not everyone likes it?"

"I don't get what you want me to do," Dean ground out. Gary, still aiming at his eye, laughed.

"You are the stupid one, aren't you?" he asked, smirking. "We want you to cut him. Burn him. Hit him. Do whatever you have to to get your baby brother baying for blood. Sam as me, and you, and all the rest of us."

"And just what the hell kinda fucked-up logic is that?" Dean snapped, looking at Jesse again. He was the one who seemed to be calling all the shots here. He didn't want to admit that they were on to something. Hurt anyone enough, and they'd just be itching to get on the other side of the blade, no matter who it was they got to cut. That was something he'd learned firsthand in Hell.

Jesse smiled again, and tipped his head towards Gary and Wyatt. "Gary said it's worked on Wyatt before." He moved his gun, putting the barrel right next to Sam's right ear. "Now. Take off your jacket and get over here, or I'm gonna have to hurt your Sammy myself."

Dean wasn't sure why he didn't just immediately do what he'd been told to. Maybe some part of him still thought that he had a chance of getting them out of this, as long as he had the equipment in his jacket. Whatever the reason was, he hesitated, and Jesse pulled the trigger.

The gunshot was almost deafening in the barn, but it was probably nothing compared to what Sam heard. It definitely brought him out of whatever stupor he'd been in; he yelled wordlessly at the top of his lungs, eyes flying open, and jerked so hard to the left that his chair would have tipped over if Nick hadn't grabbed it and righted him. Dean could see tears welling in his eyes, ones that he was probably struggling to hold back. There was a steady trickle of blood coming from his right ear.

Jesse looked at Dean and raised an eyebrow. Dean wordlessly shrugged out of his jacket and let it fall to the ground with some heavy clanks and thuds.

Then, he bent down and pulled out the knife he'd hidden in one boot and the roll of quarters he'd had in the other. He also took out the razor blades and thin wire he'd tucked up underneath his belt. Finally, he turned out his pockets. Wallet, cell phone, other cell phone, lighter, butterfly knife, sharpened nails, miniature canister of military-grade capsacin spray, another roll of quarters. With everything he'd hidden on himself scattered on the filthy floor around him, he looked back up at Jesse, whose eyes narrowed.

"We were just being safe," he said. "Meeting you at the door with guns and everything. But you actually did come here to kill us."

"Yup," Dean replied. He didn't have any witty responses left. Not with Sam choking back moans of pain and slowly shaking his head back and forth not ten feet from him.

"Why?"

Dean blinked. Seriously? "Because you three," he said, slowly and carefully as he looked at Nick, and Jesse, and Gary, "are some real sick sons of bitches."

"Oh," Jesse said. "And you aren't? Skinner?" He almost smirked. "Okay. New plan, Dean." He walked past Gary and Wyatt, still sitting in their chairs, and over to a weathered barrel serving as a makeshift table. It was piled haphazardly with tools and weapons, all crusted with dried blood and other bodily fluids. Jesse selected a long, serrated knife. "Make your brother pass out in an hour or less, and we'll let you both go. No blows to the head, no bleeding him. It has to be pain alone." He walked back over to stand by Sam, and gave Dean yet another smile. "Of course, you're totally welcome to stick around afterwards, too. If that whets your appetite."

Dean didn't even attempt to respond to that. He just walked forward and took the knife from Jesse, being careful not to touch him. Jesse, still smiling, backed off, and so did Nick. Gary stood up, then grabbed Wyatt's shoulder and hauled him roughly to his feet. They were standing in a semicircle around him now, and their guns weren't aimed at him anymore. Sam still had all of his weapons, but Dean had no doubt that, if he tried to grab one, they'd both get shot. All he was going to be allowed to have was the knife he was holding now. And maybe anything else he could find on that barrel.

Standing in front of Sam, Dean did his best to ignore the others, turning his back on them. He did his best to ignore where the two of them were, too. He switched the knife to his other hand and touched the blood on the side of Sam's neck, running out of his ear. Sam flinched, and that made Dean feel absolutely awful. This was, of course, his fault. He'd insisted they come back tonight.

"How you doing?" Den asked softly.

"I've only got one eardrum left," Sam replied. There was as much fight in his voice as Dean had expected to hear after what had happened, which set off warning bells in his mind. "How d'you think I'm doing?"

"Sorry," Dean apologized, wishing that he'd just sucked it up and skipped town with the stupid Russians.

"You didn't blow it out."

"You've got fifty-five minutes left, Dean," Jesse spoke up behind him. Dean gritted his teeth. Of course he was already timing.

"Okay." Sam took a deep breath and blew it explosively out, shifting in his chair. Dean saw him set his jaw. "Do what you have to, Dean. We don't have a lot of time."

Dean swallowed, switching the knife back to his right hand and squeezing the leather grip. Sam was staring steadily ahead, not focusing on anything, no emotion showing up on his face. He looked at his throat, his ears, down to his stomach. Sam was tough as hell and had a pain threshold that could only be described as "sky-high." If Dean wanted to make the time limit, he'd have to start cutting soon, and in very tender areas. He didn't move, though. Despite having learned his lesson with the jacket.

"Dean?" Sam asked, looking up at him. "I'm ready."

"Yeah, I know," Dean replied, licking his lips. "Sorry about this in advance, Sammy."

"Apologize when we're out of here," Sam replied quietly.

Dean had never wanted to do anything less in his entire life. He would have gladly taken another year on Alastair's rack if it meant he didn't have to torture his younger brother until the pain made him lose consciousness. Well, maybe not gladly, but he still would have done it.

He laid the tip of the knife Jesse had given him against Sam's face, pressing the point into the thin skin on the outside edge of his left eye socket. Sam squeezed his eyes shut and his breathing sped up as a bead of impossibly-bright red blood welled up around the tip of the knife. Dean felt sick for about the millionth time that day. A thin cut would heal without a noticeable scar but would still hurt. He should draw the knife down, get the pain started. But his hand trembled and refused to move so much as a centimeter, and after a few seconds, he let the knife drop down to his side.

Sam's eyes opened. "Dean?"

"Dean?" mimicked someone from behind him. Probably Gary. He sounded more impatient than mocking.

"What are you doing?" Sam demanded, ignoring Gary.

"I just - give me a minute." Dean clenched his hand around the grip of the knife until the skin over his knuckles began to sting. If he couldn't bring himself to do this, they probably wouldn't live through the night. If he could, Sam might die anyway. He might kill him, trying to hurt him enough to make him pass out.

"We don't have a minute!" Sam seemed to be getting angry. That made sense, since he was probably panicking. "What the hell is wrong with you? Cut me!"

"I don't wanna do that," Dean tried to explain, lamely, as a couple of the men behind him began to snicker. Apparently, Sam yelling at him was funny.

"Cut me!" Sam exploded. "Break my jaw! Stab one of my eyes! Pull my teeth out! Do what they want you to! Are you gonna - do you want to let them hurt me again?"

"No - " He just wanted to protect him. That was all he'd ever wanted, since he was four years old. This flew in the face of that desire, and that was probably why he was having such a hard time.

"Then cut me!" Sam ordered furiously. "D'you think it would've taken me this long if they put you in this chair?! I'd have half your fingernails ripped out by now, Dean. I would've jumped at the chance."

Dean understood what Sam was trying to do, but it wasn't make it any easier to start slicing him up. All he was really accomplishing was to make the others laugh harder. Dean felt a sudden surge of hate towards them, and wished he'd been charged with knocking out Gary instead of Sam. Or Jesse.

"Give me a minute," he repeated through clenched teeth, because he couldn't think of anything else to say. Sam's eyes widened, almost incredulously. Before he could verbally tear him a new one, though, one of the guys behind him spoke up.

"C'mon. You weren't anywhere near this much of a pussy last night," Nick complained loudly. Dean heard boots crunching over the gritty floor, and turned slightly to watch him come up beside him, shotgun swinging carelessly from his fingers. The tips were just barely pressed to the stock, and Dean half-expected him to drop it before he even reached him. "Actually. You were real creative, with that one vampire's stomach. And the skinning." Nick's smile turned wolfish. "Oh, we really liked the skinning. Right, Jesse?"

"We loved the skinning," Jesse confirmed, happily, from behind Dean.

"You were really good at it, too," Nick continued. "So why don't you do a little bit of that to your brother?"

Sam visibly swallowed, Adam's apple bobbing. He didn't say anything, but Dean knew that there was no way he could peel even one square inch of his skin off. Sam remembered just enough of the time he'd spent in the Cage, going by hints he'd dropped, to know what Lucifer's favorite form of torture had been, and Dean reenacting it would snap him in half.

"How about his face?" Jesse suggested. Dean didn't give him the satisfaction of looking at him. "He's too pretty for a hunter, anyway. I think he should have more scars."

"Oh, that's a good idea," Nick agreed, nodding to himself. "You wouldn't have to do enough of it to really make him bleed, or to really mess him up, but think about how many nerves you've got in your face. Think about how bad it'd hurt. He'd be out in no time." Lifting the hand he wasn't holding a gun with, he reached for Sam's face. Sam leaned back, eyes burning with hate almost as strong as what Dean was feeling, but there was only so far he could go. Nick touched him, running an appreciative thumb along the lightly-stubbled line of his jaw. "You could start low and then - "

Dean's arm honestly seemed to move on its own. One second, it was down by his side, and the next, it was stabbing the knife into the soft area directly under Nick's lower jaw. Making use of the muscles he'd built carrying heavy weapons and sparring with Sam by forcing it up into his mouth, through the roof of it, past his nasal cavity, and into his brain. Frontal lobe, Dean remembered vaguely from an anatomy class he'd almost passed back in high school. The serrated blade of the knife was more than long enough to reach it.

Nick made a wheezing, gagging sound, eyes bugging out as blood ran down his neck and out of his mouth. Still open, because he'd been talking when Dean had stabbed him. His tongue, impaled by the knife, twitched weakly. His jaw flexed, probably involuntarily, and dragged the knife down by a fraction of an inch with a juicy crunching noise. More blood poured out of his mouth. Less than a second later, his bulging eyes rolled back in his head, and he slumped to the ground. Dean plucked the shotgun from his hand before he could keel over completely.

As Nick spasmed on the floor like he was having a seizure (actually, the odds were good that he really was having a seizure, as he bled out into his brain), Dean raised the shotgun and turned to face the remaining three. Jesse was staring at Nick, face so white that he might have been bleeding out, too, but Gary was looking at the double barrels. Wyatt wasn't looking at anything, near as Dean could tell.

"Unless any of you think you can somehow get those peashooters up before I put a gaping hole where your guts are right now," Dean announced, expertly thumbing back both hammers, "I suggest you do exactly what I tell you to."

"You killed Nick," Jesse stated quietly, swallowing.

"Don't think he's quite dead yet, but yeah," Dean agreed. "I did. If I'd done what you wanted me to, though, I might've killed my brother. Eye for an eye and all that." He looked at Gary and Wyatt. "Tweedledee. Tweedledum. Drop your guns and put Jesse in one of these chairs. Chain him up. And make sure he can see Nick." Without looking down, Dean nudged Nick with the toe of one of his boots. He didn't get a response, so maybe he was dead by now.

Dean had expected Gary to have to spur Wyatt into action again, but Wyatt dropped his handgun and followed Gary without any prompting. Dean kept the gun trained on them as they shoved Jesse down into a chair (one with a full view of Nick, just like he'd asked) and chained him up. They used padlocks, which Dean hadn't seen Nick attach to Sam's chains, but they had to be there, or else the chains would be useless. Gary looked at him once, and Dean narrowed his eyes, raising the gun a little. He'd hate to catch Wyatt with his shot if Gary or even Jesse tried something, but that didn't mean he wasn't willing to take the risk.

When Wyatt and Gary were done, straightening up with a stone-faced Jesse sitting between them, Dean glanced at Wyatt. Wyatt looked back. Somehow, he'd gotten his attention.

"Do him now," Dean instructed, jerking the gun at Gary, who immediately shot a downright murderous glare at Wyatt. Wyatt hesitated, shifting his weight away from Gary. "Well...I guess you don't have to. Just move out of my range and I'll...put him down." Dean gave Wyatt the friendliest smile he could manage, under the circumstances. "Like a rabid dog."

"Least I'm not screwing my brother," Gary spat, then swore ferociously at Wyatt as he wandered back over to the pile of chains. Dean rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, like we've never heard that one before," he replied, glancing briefly at Sam. "I'm not, but it ain't like I really care what you jerkoffs think of us, so...whatever."

Gary refused to sit down when Wyatt returned with the chain. Until Dean made a show of aiming at his stomach, at least, and then he dropped into the chair next to Jesse, and Wyatt made sure he wasn't going anywhere for awhile. Once he was finished, Dean lowered the shotgun.

"Get outta here," he told him. Wyatt blinked. "Go on. Take your guys' car and just leave." He looked at the barrel and, sure enough, there was a pair of bolt cutters, buried under the other tools. They'd probably been using them to snip through bones. He leaned down and set the gun on the ground, then walked over to retrieve them. "I don't really feel like tying you up, and even if I did, I wouldn't. I don't have any beef with you." He tugged the bolt cutters free, sending almost everything else crashing to the floor of the barn, then shot a glare at Wyatt, who hadn't moved. "Scram!"

Wyatt left, finally. He did it slowly, though, walking like he was drunk, and he left the barn door open. Dean walked behind Sam's chair, did indeed find a padlock, and cut through it with a grunt of effort as the CR-V's engine started up. He freed Sam's legs and helped him to his feet while the sound of it faded into the distance.

"Thanks," Sam said quietly, glancing down at Nick as he rubbed his wrists. The links of the chain had left red impressions in the skin.

"Don't mention it." Dean dropped the bolt cutters.

"So..." Sam looked at him, then at Gary and Jesse in their chairs. "What...what're we gonna do?"

"Leave," Dean replied. "Put as much distance between us and this place as we can before sunup. We'll leave them where they are," he nodded to them, "and whatever happens to them, happens. Y'know. Like we did with Gordon."

Sam stopped rubbing his wrists for a second, and looked at him again. "You...do remember what happened with Gordon, right?"

"Well...yeah," Dean admitted, aching to be back in the Impala. He didn't feel good. Mentally and emotionally.

"You said we were going to put an end to what they were doing," Sam pointed out.

"I sure as hell put an end to - " Dean began, gesturing to Nick's body, but Sam cut him off.

"That's not gonna stop those two," he said, shaking his head. The movement brought the blood from his burst eardrum into sight. Dean's gut clenched. "If anything, it'll make whatever's wrong with them even worse. They're gonna come after us, when they get outta here. And even if they don't, I know for a fact that they'll keep doing this." He turned towards the back of the barn, where the stables were. Where the spoiled-meat smell was coming from. Where two nests' worth of vampires, tortured to death over the course of a week, were slowly rotting together into a shapeless mass.

Sam looked at Dean again. "D'you really want that on you?"

Dean sighed heavily. He really hated it when Sam had a point - which, unfortunately, happened a lot. He walked past Nick's body and the sawed-off he'd dropped next to it. Sam followed him, boots shuffling through straw and blood and dirt. As Dean bent to scoop up one of the handguns he'd had Wyatt and Gary put down, Jesse spoke up.

"You don't have to worry about us," he promised, an edge of panic in his voice. "We're done with this. We're done with you two. Just leave us here - you already killed Nick."

"Shut up," Dean advised, straightening up with the gun in his hand, already half-raised. But Sam grabbed his wrist, and pushed it down. Dean glanced at him with an expression he hoped was questioning and not just dully exhausted.

"Not like that," Sam said, shaking his head. He glanced over at Jesse and Gary. Jesse was chewing anxiously on his lower lip while Gary glared and sneezed, "Fags." "Make it hurt."

"You really don't have to," Jesse repeated. Dean blinked at Sam.

"Sam...I..." He swallowed, searching for the right words. "Look. If I...if I go ahead and...let that out - that part of me - there's no guarantee I'll stop with them."

Sam studied his face, then shook his head again. "You're not gonna hurt me, Dean."

"You sound pretty sure about that," replied Dean, who knew that if he started down that road, he would definitely end up hurting Sam - and he'd enjoy it, too.

Sam took hold of the gun, pulled it out of his hand, and flicked the safety on before dropping it again. He moved closer, until there was about as much distance between them as there'd been in the shower, that morning. The kiss that they segued into felt perfectly natural, but Dean probably would have found it a lot easier to enjoy if Gary hadn't burst into mocking laughter about midway through.

"Not screwing your brother, my ass," he sneered. "Look at that, Jesse. Dean Winchester's giving it to his little brother. You owe me a hundred bucks."

"Eat me, Gary," Jesse spat back.

"Doin' this," Dean began when they broke apart, doing his best to ignore the peanut gallery, "is gonna make us just like them."

"No," Sam disagreed. "They deserve it." He found Dean's hands with his own, and squeezed. "You won't hurt me. I'll be right here with you the whole time, and you won't hurt me. I'm not afraid of you. And you shouldn't be, either."

Dean still hesitated. He wasn't sure this wouldn't push him over the edge, make that itch he got every so often a million times stronger. If he got that itch in the middle of the night, in a seedy motel room, when a sleeping, vulnerable Sam was the only one around, and he couldn't fight it off...

"Dean." Sam interrupted his thoughts with a soft, persuasive voice. "De." The nickname that Sam had used before he could pronounce his full name properly made Dean's eyes slide closed. "This isn't anything like what you did in Hell, or what Lucifer did to me. This is the right thing to do. We both need this." Dean, thinking, didn't respond or open his eyes. "Remember what they were gonna make you do to me."

Dean sucked in a breath so deep it made his lungs hurt, then let it slowly out as he opened his eyes and pulled his hands out of Sam's. "Go pick something outta that pile over there," he told him, waving a hand at the barrel as he walked over to haul the door that Wyatt had left open closed. "You're gonna help me."

Sam obeyed without replying. Creaky door closed, Dean returned to Nick's body. Aware that Jesse and Gary were both watching him, he planted a boot firmly on Nick's forehead, grabbed the knife's bloody handle, and pulled. Nick's dead eyes trembled in place as the knife tore out in a welter of lukewarm blood and spongy tissue. Tongue, brain, the lining of his sinuses, Dean assumed. Jesse gagged softly as he straightened up, knife in hand, and turned around.

"Man the fuck up," Gary snapped at Jesse. "This whole thing was your stupid idea. You and Nick." Jesse didn't answer, so Gary turned his glare on Dean. "You're bluffing. Just trying to scare us, right? You don't have the balls for this. Neither of you do."

"Really," Dean replied, walking over to the two of them. Jesse looked away as he did. Sam joined him, quiet. "We had the balls last night."

"Dick and Pussy were making you do it last night," Gary replied, before shooting a disgusted look at Jesse. "This time? You queers don't have any motivation. You're gonna chicken out in five minutes, guarantee it, you're both gonna start bawling, and you'll have to blow each other out in your piece of shit car just to - Jesus fuck!"

Gary tried to jerk backwards, swearing and screaming, but Sam was still holding the back of his head, so he couldn't. He'd grabbed it to hold him steady while he slapped a palm over one of his eyes. Dean wasn't entirely sure of what had happened until Sam took both of his hands away and revealed the head of a nail, sticking out of Gary's eye. His lids were clamped tightly around the base of it, but blood and...eyeball juice (Dean wasn't sure what the technical term for it was) was oozing slowly out anyway.

Dean arched an eyebrow, then cleared his throat, uncomfortable, when he realized that he was slightly swollen in his boxers. He hadn't had a torture fetish before his stint in Hell, and he guessed there wasn't anything he could do about it now. He wondered if he'd been tenting his jeans last night.

Sam glanced over at him. "I didn't...throw mine all over the floor."

"No, you..." Dean put a hand on Sam's shoulder. "You did good. But I thought you wanted Jesse."

"I guess it doesn't really matter," Sam replied, running a hand through his long hair. So Dean shrugged and turned his attention to Jesse.

He heard his breaths get fast and shallow as he dropped into a crouch in front of him, and took a second to remember what he'd learned in Hell. To tap into it, bring out the literal demonic streak that Alastair had expertly laid into his soul. It was a tiny shift, but it threw everything into a completely new light. Dean raised the knife he was holding until it was level with Jesse's face.

"D'you see this knife?" he asked. "I'm gonna use it on you." Jesse clenched his teeth and bit back a noise that sounded almost like a whimper. Dean laughed. "Man, you are just scared shitless to be on the receiving end, aren't you? Anyway. You don't have to be all that worried. I'm not gonna cut you up with a dirty knife." He waited, but Jesse didn't reply, so he continued. "Which is why I want you to clean it."

"How?" Jesse asked quietly, giving the chain around his wrists a pained rattle.

"What part of a vampire did you make Sam eat last night? The brain?" Dean responded, before moving the knife closer to Jesse's mouth. "How d'you think I want you to clean it?"

"He wants you to suck Nick's brain off it, genius," Gary grunted, chin tucked in towards his chest, both eyes, including the one with the nail in it, squeezed shut. "Probably needs your help getting it up before he - " There was a harsh clicking sound, and Gary cut himself off with a shout of agony. Sam stood up from where he'd been crouching behind him, a pair of bloody wire cutters in his hand.

"Make another comment like that about me and my brother," he said quietly, "and you'll lose your other thumb, too."

"Blow me, freak." Gary coughed. Sam walked around to stand in front of him and, with a speed that his big hands should have made impossible, pulled the nail out of his eye. It squelched as something bloody and jelly-like poured out before he could get his swollen lids closed. He shouted again.

Dean watched. He'd never seen Sam like this. Not with someone who wasn't a demon, at least. After last night, though, it was probably a natural reaction. He looked at Jesse again.

"Start licking," he instructed. "Or I'll have him come over here and start cutting your fingers off, too."

Lips twitching with disgust, Jesse opened his mouth and stuck out his tongue. He lapped gingerly at the blade of the knife, avoiding the shreds of flesh and gray matter. Dean had to remind him to get those, and then to swallow. Jesse didn't even make it a full minute before he vomited into his lap. Alcohol, blood, and Nick splashed across the thighs of his suit pants, and not much else. His last meal must have been hours ago.

"God, Dean," Sam muttered, pressing the back of a hand to his nose. Dean wasn't sure why - it wasn't like the smell in the barn could possibly get any worse.

"You told me to make it hurt," he pointed out, standing up. "I'm making it hurt." He stared down at Jesse, who was still spitting. "Guess the taste of your partner didn't really agree with you, huh, Jesse?" He made a show of examining the knife. "And you did a piss-poor job of cleaning him off of this. Better hope he didn't have anything." He moved behind Jesse's chair, grabbed a handful of his hair, and yanked his head back so he was looking at him upside down. His eyes were wide.

"What d'you want me to do?" Sam asked quietly, coming to stand beside Dean. Dean glanced at him.

"What'd Gary do last night?" he asked. Sam laughed hollowly.

"Oh, all kinds of things."

"Pick one."

Sam thought.

"Smashed one of their ribs up with a hammer," he replied. "Then cut her chest open and pulled all the pieces out."

Dean raised his eyebrows. Sam blinked, slowly, then returned to the barrel. Gary launched into a screaming tirade, practically foaming at the mouth, but Dean ignored him.

"So," he said, staring down at Jesse. He had something sticky in his hair, probably mousse, but Dean held onto it anyway. "Jesse. Refresh my memory. Was it...you who suggested I cut off part of my brother's face?"

"I'm sorry," Jesse blurted. Actual tears were forming in his eyes. "I'm so sorry. Please don't do this. You guys don't do this, right? You don't do this kind of thing. You're better than this."

"You are so pathetic it's actually making me nauseous," Dean said frankly. "And don't you think it's just a little late to apologize? After you tore up dozens of vampires? Made me and Sam do it, too? Blew out his eardrum?" He placed the gory knife against the line of Jesse's jaw, and he trembled. "'Bout time you got a taste of your own medicine."

"Yeah, I - I'm evil!" Jesse agreed, tears spilling over. "Or - whatever. But you two aren't."

"Really," Dean replied, pushing on the knife and starting to cut.

Chapter Text

Jesse bit it in under an hour, disappointingly enough. It was probably a combination of shock and blood loss. Dean had just pulled on the skin of his face after making that first cut, and he'd passed out almost immediately. Splashing a little of the whiskey left in the bottle he'd been sharing with Gary and Wyatt earlier on the widening wound had brought him back, but only for about ten minutes. His heart had stopped by the time Dean peeled him up to his nose, and with him dead, tearing his face off didn't seem worth it anymore. So Dean helped Sam with Gary.

Gary, it turned out, was a tough son of a bitch as well as a sick one. He didn't lose consciousness once, and he was still perfectly alive hours later, despite everything they'd done to him. Granted, he'd yelled nonstop at first (most likely to deal with the pain and to drown out the wet ripping noises of Jesse's face coming off), and now he was must mumbling incoherently to himself, head lolling around on his neck. But still. It was impressive.

His torso had been sliced completely open in an autopsy cut, shirt and the top part of his jeans gone, letting his quivering, blood-streaked organs slump out into his lap and exposing the place where his ribs would be, if they weren't conspicuously absent (Sam). His mouth had been sawed open on both sides back to his earlobes (which might actually be part of the reason he wasn't yelling anymore (Dean). His other thumb was gone (Sam). His fingernails had been bent backwards until they popped out of their beds (Dean). His feet had been nailed to the floor in their stupid cowboy boots (also Dean). His uninjured eye had been scooped out (Sam), and the flesh at the base of his neck had been scraped away until the knobs of his spine were visible (Dean again).

Dean was painfully hard, and a cursory palming of Sam's crotch had revealed that he was, too. Their work on Gary had been punctuated by frequent touches and kisses, and by the way Sam had been practically humping him for the last fifteen minutes, Dean guessed that he was ready to consummate...whatever this thing between them was. This new thing, that had sprung up in less than twenty-four hours.

"Hey," Dean said. "Gary." He patted Gary's ruined cheek, trying to get his attention. All he accomplished was making his head roll bonelessly to rest against his other shoulder. "D'you have any, uh, bloodborne diseases?"

A string of bloody drool slowly stretched itself down from Gary's tongue, where it had flopped out the newly-widened side of his mouth.

"AIDS? Hep B?" Dean pressed. "See, the reason I ask is I'd like to screw my brother. Right in front of you. But we don't have any lube, and I think it'd be...awesome to use your blood."

"Gllluunnnh," Gary gurgled.

"Since I can't get a straight answer outta you about the disease thing, though, I guess I'll just lick him open." Dean grabbed a loop of Gary's graying small intestine and tossed it over his head. It hit the raw wound on the back of his neck with a soft slap, and Sam must have nicked it when he cut him open, because it started leaking something dark and viscous onto his spine. "Enjoy the show, Princess."

Gary died while they were making love on the floor in front of him, alternating between a missionary position with Dean topping and Sam riding him until they hit a simultaneous climax. Dean guessed infection, checking Gary's nonexistent pulse as he pulled his pants up, but according to Sam, it hadn't been long enough for any to set in. He said he'd probably bled out. They agreed, though, that Wyatt would get a kick out of seeing him like this.

It was dawn when they left the barn, sun just barely peeking over the horizon, and that surprised Dean. He hadn't realized they'd spent so much time on Jesse and Gary. Who probably hadn't been worth it, but hell...he'd had fun.

That might have worried him, under different circumstances. But he couldn't bring himself to care right now. He just felt too good. So did Sam, obviously, leaning affectionately against him in the front seat of the Impala once they'd spread a blanket over it. They were drenched in blood and other stuff, just like they had been yesterday morning, and Dean refused to ruin Baby's leather. He didn't start the engine right away. Just sat there, arm around his brother, and watched the sun slowly rise. He ached pleasantly; torture and sex were hard work.

"We're not like them, right?" Sam asked, all of a sudden. He sounded surprisingly unsure. "This doesn't make us like them?"

"Nah, Sam," Dean replied. "We're still the good guys."

There was a beat of silence, then Sam asked, "Think there are more out there? Hunters like Nick and Jesse, I mean. And Gary."

Dean cleared his throat. "I'm sure there are, Sam." He glanced at him. "You think maybe we should...try and track 'em down?"

"Yeah," Sam replied. "I do." He shifted. "Let's get outta here. I'm starving, and I really need a shower."

Dean obliged, twisting the keys in the ignition and throwing the car into gear. Before he pulled out, though, he reached up and adjusted the rearview mirror. He frowned as he caught sight of Sam and himself in it. For a second, their eyes looked...too dark. Almost black, actually. Solid black. When he looked again, though, they were back to normal, green and (for the moment) an icy blue. In faces practically painted with human blood.

Dean drove, Sam still snuggled up to him. Thinking that, maybe, Hell on Earth wasn't so bad of a thing after all.