Authors Note: Hey everyone! This is again a plot bunny that has been gnawing away at my ankle. It takes place after the end of Season 3, and is an AU. So, yes, there are major spoilers if you haven't seen that much. This story will also be my first attempt at a multi-chapter fic. All constructive criticism is appreciated. Reviews = love. =) Again, all mistakes are my own.

Disclaimer: I own none of the rights to Supernatural or its characters. I'm just playing in someone else's sandbox.

Redemption: Part One: Escape

"Where the heck do you think you're goin', Sam?" Bobby asked. It had been close to a week since the hell hounds came. That week had been spent arguing in circles with Sam. Sam who alternated every few hours between taking off for god-knows-where, and sitting beside his brothers' slowly decaying body. Bobby had taken to keeping the windows open like he had taken to drinking hard liquor before noon.

Sam took a step back as he turned. The look on his face wasn't one of mourning; it was pure determination sheathed in desperation. "Dean's in Hell, Bobby," he said. "I'm going to get him back."

"Oh yeah? And just how are you plannin' to do that?" Bobby said. He took a careful step towards Sam, afraid the boy would bolt if he moved too quickly. "Your brother wouldn't want you to be makin' no deals."

Sam gave a joyless smile. "Don't worry, I'm not going to." he said, hand on the door knob. As he turned to walk out, his words were rough, caught in his throat. "Don't burn him. He'll need a body to come back to."

And then Sam was gone. Bobby stared at the closed door for a moment, before sighing.

Dean had been easy to understand. He stood for his family, and lived for the hunt. The world was almost black and white: good and bad. Sam lived in a gray area between reason, emotion, and morality. It created a mixture in the boys' outlook that Bobby could never grasp.

It was only nine in the morning, but Bobby needed another drink.

Dean knew he was going to die again. The body he had was at its limit. He had died so many times before, that he was beginning to be able to tell how close he was to the edge. He would welcome death if it meant release from the pain. But Dean was in Hell, and there would never be a release. It wasn't that people couldn't die in Hell. They died all the time. It was that they didn't stay dead. The bodies rejuvenated themselves. And dying never hurt any less than it did the first time.

Dean didn't open his eyes anymore. He hadn't in a long time. He knew all he needed to without sight: he was still on the rack, he was still in Hell, and demons still had fun playing with him.

There was a sinister snicker beside his ear. A warm, female body pressed against his, small delicate hands running over his blood-soaked chest. The whispers sounded like past lovers. It made his heart ache. A small finger lingered over an open wound in his skin before digging into the flesh, scraping a nail through the blood and meat.

Dean didn't scream. The pain was small in comparison to some of the other tortures. There were wet slurping sounds, and then a tongue licked across his skin. He jerked away as much as he could, but that wasn't very far. There were murmurs further away, an amused audience. The finger returned to scrape through the wound again, and Dean ground his teeth.

He would not scream. He would not scream. He would not scream.

He screamed.

Roars of laughter and jeers erupted around him. Blows came in quick succession. Something cold sliced along his side, a distraction from the burning pain of the finger digging through his ruined flesh. Something else stabbed into his shoulder. A tongue lapped at the cut on his thigh, each lick a sharp sting. Dean panted for breath, trying to ease himself through the pain. He would scream again, but he didn't have enough air in his lungs.

"You shouldn't do that," a soft voice said from the darkness, and everything stopped. The torture stopped, and there was the sound of scuttling rushing towards the darkness.

Dean knew that voice. His eyes flew open in disbelief and surprise. Horror burned in his stomach. Sam was covered in blood and fleshy bits that Dean didn't want to think about. His face was nonchalant, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket.

"Sam?" Dean choked on the word. Sam was in Hell. Dean thought he had stopped that from happening. He relied on the knowledge that Sam was safe. Sometimes he imagined that his brother had moved on, had returned to the life he had left behind in Stanford. It was all worth it if Sam was safe and happy. It kept Dean from breaking.

But Sam was here, in Hell, covered in blood that Dean hoped was not his own.

Sam's gaze was focused past Dean, into the impenetrable darkness that began ten feet from the rack. Sam raised a hand, palm down, towards the darkness. Slowly, the long fingers curled into a fist, and wails of terror and pain rose from the depths, louder than the jeers had ever been.

Dean watched the darkness with sick fascination. His tormentors were screaming. Dean glanced back to his brother in time to see him reach out and grab a demon out of the darkness. It was like watching a magician pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Sam held the demon by the neck with one hand, its feet dangling off the ground. It looked human except for the black eyes. A smirk formed on Sam's lips as he lifted the opposite hand and pulled off an arm with a wet crunch. The demon screamed.

Dean watched his brothers' smirk turn to a grin at the sound, and something akin to fear shuddered down Dean's spine. Dean closed his eyes again. There was a rhythm to the sounds: wet-crunch-pop, scream, wet-crunch-pop, scream. Then the scream turned into a horrible slopping wheezing. Dean opened his eyes to find the dislocated head at his feet, eyes human blue. The body was by Sam's feet, still trying to scream. It wasn't rejuvenating. It was stuck like that.

Dean would have vomited if it were possible.

Dean resisted the urge to struggle to get away when his brother took a step towards him. Sam's eyes were cold, but not black. He wasn't a demon. Or at least not like Dean had ever faced before. Whatever it was, it had copying Sam down to an art form. It looked like Sam, moved like Sam, even its voice had sounded like Sam; intonation and everything. It all made Dean's breath catch at the familiarity. If it hadn't been for the brutality and the blood, Dean could almost believe this was his younger brother. Except Sam's face had never been that frozen.

It's not Sam. It's not Sam. It's not Sam.

"This is what I am, Dean," Sam whispered in his ear as he reached up to undo the chains around Dean's wrists. The emotion that was missing from Sam's face was in his voice: sad, desperate, close to pleading. Dean could do nothing more than stare. It's Sam, something inside him screamed. His heart hurt.

"What are you doing here?" Dean asked as he slid off the rack. It was difficult to stay upright. His throat was raw, and he was losing a lot of blood. He placed an arm over a deep cut across his abdomen. He'd come back to life if he died, but he didn't care. Dean didn't want to die again.

Sam stared past him into the distance and didn't answer. "Sam?" Dean prompted.

Sam turned to him then. "What does it look like I'm doing?" Sam shifted slightly, a subtle fighting stance their father had taught them at a young age. Again the screaming: it's Sam.

A demon appeared at Sam's side. It fell to one knee without preamble. "My lord," it said. "Everything is ready."

"Good," Sam said. He placed his hand on the demon's human-looking head and smiled. Then he brought his knee up crushed its face in. The demon fell to the bone-littered, blood spattered ground.

Dean stared. It was still only the second time he had ever witnessed his brother kill something human looking without hesitation. The first time being only moments before, and the body was still wheezing out high pitched screams.

"Let's go," Sam said with a casual glance at Dean. He stuffed his bloody hands in his pockets and walked away.

Dean glanced between the rack and Sam. This was a new type of torture, he decided. Instead of physical pain, the demons were going to maim him mentally. And Sam was his weak spot. Could the demons guess how much this would bother him? Could they know that he had been glad to die before he could see his brother turn evil?

It's not Sam. It's not Sam. It's not Sam.

Dean had to believe that. He had to believe that his brother was still safe, still sane. He followed the form of his brother none-the-less. He wasn't going to be put back on the rack.

Sam led and Dean followed. Trapped in perpetual darkness, there was no way to tell how much time passed. Dean marked time by how many horror scenes they came across: dismembered body, forty steps; disemboweled baby, 120 steps; person skinned alive, fifty steps.

After a while, hell hounds started tagging along side Sam. They were giant sleek hounds with jet black fur and lolling blood-red tongues. They would dart forward to lick the blood from Sam's hands and arms, off his clothes. They whined in happiness when Sam patted one of them on the head, as if they were family dogs and not the beasts that had torn Dean apart.

Dean stayed far back, trying not to choke on rising terror. The hounds paid him no mind, not even a spare growl or glance. He was grateful. He wasn't ready to truly face off a hell hound again. In fact, he was pretty sure he would hold a dislike for all canines forever onward. He was officially a cat person.

The hell hounds left when Sam started killing everything he came across.

The first came as a surprise to Dean. Sam stopped, reached out into the darkness and pulled a struggling demon into Dean's line of sight. This demon didn't look human. It looked more like the gargoyles he had read about in one of Bobby's books. It was a nasty creature with matte grey skin, wicked sharp claws, and bulging red eyes.

The thing screamed, clawing at Sam's hands. Whispers and jeers from the darkness echoed words like "Boy-king" and "Our Lord". It was enough that Dean knew there was a host of demons right beyond his vision.

Sam plunged his hand into the demons' chest, and smiled like he did when something unexpected made him happy. The he ripped out the insides, dropped them to ground, and tossed the shrieking demon aside. Sam's arm was covered in purple blood up to his elbow, but he didn't seem to care. He simply grinned at Dean and continued onward. The jeers and whispers followed them.

The next time, it wasn't a demon. It was human, a tortured soul who had yet to give in. He was on a rack like Dean had been. His irises had bled to black, so his eyes were two dark spots in all the white like an old Disney character. He pleaded, eyes flicking between Dean and Sam. The man's body was a ruin, unable to support him even if freed. It would have to rejuvenate before he could move on his own again.

"Please, please," the man said. His tears looked human. "Help me."

Sam didn't say anything. He stood aside and watched Dean. There were only whispers in the darkness now, and Dean couldn't hear what they were saying.

It's a test, Dean thought, as he fought his urge to free the man. Dean knew there was no correct answer. Free the man or not, he was still in Hell.

When Dean didn't move, Sam shrugged. With two quick strides, Sam stood before the man. He reached as if to release the chains, and the man started crying.

"Thank you, thank you," the man said.

Sam paused, but his back was to Dean so his face wasn't visible. "Don't thank me," Sam said. And the man turned to ash.

Sam stopped and Dean didn't want to look up. It was never good when Sam stopped. There was always a new horror, another soul or demon Dean would have to watch his brother decimate.

"We're here," Sam said. His voice was rough, as if he had spent the same amount of time screaming as Dean had. Except he hadn't spoken louder than a whisper since appearing at the rack.

Dean stepped beside his brother, and Sam clasped his shoulder. Sam's hand was caked in dried blood of different colors, but Dean tried his best to ignore it. If he thought about the deaths and the hounds and the demons, Dean knew he'd cringe away from the touch. He knew he probably should. But the mimicry of his little brother was perfect, and Dean didn't want to cringe away. That was the worst part.

"Here?" Dean said. The whispers, the ever-present audience was absent. The darkness was empty.

Sam nodded. He raised his right hand out toward the darkness, again his palm parallel to the ground. Then, slowly, he began to turn it from vertical to horizontal like a key in a lock. Dean watched the darkness, waiting for the screams.

None came.

Sam's hand began to shake, and the one on Dean's shoulder clenched tight.

Nothing happened.

Sam's breathing became ragged, and blood ran from his nose, ears, and eyes.

Dean watched a small crack of light form in the darkness.

Sam fell to his knees, his grip on Dean's shoulder pulling Dean down too.

The crack of light was blinding as it widened. Dean could heard birds chirping, wind blowing through trees and earthly things. He stared at the light, not daring to hope.

The grip on his shoulder disappeared, and Dean looked down at the form of his brother huddled in the fetal position on the ground vomiting blood. It's Sam, something inside him screamed again. And years of being the big brother moved him into action.

He pulled Sam to his knees when he finished retching, and Dean wiped the blood off his brothers' face with his own tattered sleeve. Sam was pale and shaking, and the light made the dried and fresh blood more apparent.

He held his brother's face between his hands and looked into Sam's eyes. They weren't cold or insane now. They were Sam's eyes through and through, the ones Dean could read every emotion in. "That's a door, isn't Sammy?"

Dean saw the weak smile before Sam broke away to retch again. Sam was growing paler. Dean wrapped his hands in his brother's shirt, ready to haul him to his feet. His every instinct was to drag himself and his brother to the slit of light.

The ground beneath them trembled, and a thunderous roar began to rise from the darkness. Something was coming. Sam retched one last time, and then rose to his feet on his own. He shoved Dean behind him, placed himself between Dean and the darkness. That was how Dean knew Sam understood what would happen next. Dean felt his stomach knot. His way out of Hell was behind him; all he had to do was walk through. Yet his gaze was locked on Sam.

"Let's go," Dean said.

Sam looked over his shoulder, past Dean. His gaze lingered only a moment on the light. Dean could see him swallow, as if he too were fighting not to run towards the exit. Then he looked at Dean, and Dean felt his heart ache. It's Sam. The look ended any doubts he may have had. It wasn't filled with insanity or hatred or grief. The look was pure Sam. The one that Dean had seen a trillion and three times starting when his brother was about four years old. It was the look that said it all: I love you, I'm sorry, trust me.

"Go. I'll follow you." Sam said.

And Dean trusted him because this was Sam. And if Sam said he'd follow then he would. Even if everything in Dean's being was telling him to grab him and force him along. Even if part of him was telling him Sam was lying.

Dean nodded, clasped his brother's shoulder. "You'd better follow," he ordered. Then Sam turned away, and Dean walked out of Hell without looking back.

To Be Continued….

Thanks for reading! Again, review appreciated!