Author's note This story is a sequel to The Woods are Lonely, Dark and Deep.

Disclaimer All recognizable characters/settings belong to their creators. The stories listed here are transformative works, from which I've made/am making no financial profit.

Warnings Language; references/allusions to torture and non-con.

1. Mr. Brightside

He can hear the din of the dogs, hear them panting behind him, hear them gaining on him as he races through the night, chest exploding, heaving breath failing miserably when it comes to keeping up with his sprinting heart and screaming, starving, aching lungs. He hurdles fallen deadwood, zigs and zags around tree stumps, dives, rolls, leaps clear over the stream, falls, frantically scrambles to his feet, runs for his fuckin' life, feels the boiling heat of their breath scald right through his jeans to the skin of his legs as he suddenly remembers he's packing this time. Tears of relief, joy, prick his eyes as he feels the cold, hard weight of his Desert Eagle already in his hand, and he spins, crashes onto his ass and lets loose a hail of bullets.

And it stops.

And it's quiet.

And it's over.

And his brother catches up to him, panting, eyes watery in the moonlight, puts his arms around him, pulls him close, tells him it's okay, it's safe, he's safe, as he carefully peels his fingers off the gun one at a time.

"I know, Sammy…" he crows. "I got 'em, I got 'em this time. See?" He points at the bloodied, twisted bodies of the dogs and he laughs through his tears.

And Sam smiles at him, and his voice is halting. "I know Dean. You did it. They're gone, they'll never hurt you or scare you again. You're safe. You're safe now."

"Can't I leave you boys here by yourselves for one night without the shit hitting the fan?" Bobby grouses, as he wraps the dog's body in the sacking and heaves it up into the back of his truck. "What the fuck was he doing out in the yard at two in the morning anyway? He knows I let the dogs out after dark."

Sam looks up from where he's working away at the second dog's collar, the buckle stiff with years of grime that hasn't been softened one iota by the mutt bleeding out all over it. "I forgot to lock the door," he mutters. "He was already outside when I woke up—fuck."

Bobby chuckles. "Broke a nail, princess?" He walks over, squats down beside Sam, has a go at the collar himself while he keeps needling. "I know he's been having bad dreams, boy, but you never said it was bad enough to be locking him in at night. I thought you were handling it."

And Sam thinks, ah, but Bobby, you sleep on the other side of the house, doesn't say it out loud though. He wipes his bloody hands on his jeans, just about suppresses a shudder at his crimson-rimmed fingernails. He'll never get used to that.

"I was handling it, Bobby," he defends. "Thought I was anyway." Thought he was, fuck. Knows he wasn't, isn't, knows his brother is hanging on to the edge of a sheer drop by his fingernails while the twin ghosts of Lee and Missy Bender hover right next to him, tickling him under the arms to make him let go so they can swoop down and catch him as he tumbles into the abyss. Sam stands, swallowing against a sudden wave of nausea at the image of his brother falling, staring accusingly into Sam's eyes as he drops, while Sam lunges, and misses, and screams his name.

"Fuck this." Bobby finally gives up on the buckle and rolls the animal onto the burlap, then bends down and hauls the rigid body over to the truck, Sam a step behind. They bend in unison to lift and drop it into the truck bed, where it lands with a dull thud. After a beat, Bobby pulls off his cap, and for an embarrassing moment Sam thinks it's some kind of mourning ritual. He's mortified, bows his head in respect, clasps his hands together.

"Boy, what the heck are you doing?" the older man says curiously, wiping his brow on his sleeve before pulls his cap on again. "Are you praying for my dogs?"

Caught out, Sam feels his cheeks burn like the fuckin' idjit he is. He backpedals frantically, bleats, "No, no sir. I was not…"

Bobby watches him suspiciously for a minute or two, raises an eyebrow. "Well…" He looks into the truck at the mutts, bites his lip suddenly. "That said, they were good dogs. Clinton… Lewinsky… you were good pups, good friends to me, kept me warm on long, lonely nights. I never had cause to worry knowing you were out here taking care of the place for me. You were like family to me, you two."

Bobby lifts a hand to his eyes and Sam scuffs his feet in the dirt, looks anywhere but at the old man, finally reaches out a hand and squeezes his heaving shoulder. "I'm so sorry Bobby," he mutters. "We'll pack our stuff, we'll be out before day's end. I promise. He didn't know what he was doing, Bobby, honest. He's all broken up about it himself." His voice doesn't miss a beat, even as his mind's eye can still see his brother grinning manically at him: Bobby knows it's cat-killers you need to watch out for, Sammy-boy…

And Bobby spins around, no tears in sight, clips the top of his head. "Fuckin' idjit," he sniggers. "Can't believe you fell for that one. How do you get by in the real world? Lucky you got your big brother looking out for you, kid."

The old man has the good grace to stop when he sees Sam's stricken expression, reaches out – up – to ruffle his hair. "They're dogs, Sam," he says gruffly. "Good guard dogs, yeah – but dogs." He turns, slams the tailgate into place. "I've seen enough in this world to know what really matters. And dogs will never, ever, come higher on my list than your brother. Or you. Got that?"

Sam nods, leans back against the truck beside him, feels Bobby's gaze still on him.

"Besides, you know what they say, boy," Bobby adds sagely. "It's cat-killers you need to watch out for."

Sam goggles, and the older man elaborates.

"It's cat-killers who grow up to be Son of S—" He stops abruptly. "Jeffrey Dahmer. That's what I was going to say." He sucks a tooth. "Doesn't mean we haven't got a problem though," he continues. "Near a month you been here, and he hasn't said a word about it. And now this."

Sam bats away the flies that are swarming around his blood-soaked jeans. "I'll bury the dogs, Bobby. Least I can do. Maybe even get him out here to help dig—"

"You digress, boy," Bobby cuts in. "He leaves the house to walk to the car, leaves the car to walk to the liquor store. The only time he isn't blitzed is the hour after he gets up, and that hooch he's buying, Jesus, it's fuckin' hemlock… how it is he stays upright is beyond me, because that stuff gives you the kind of hangover that should be in the Smithsonian under glass. And can you tell me when he last ate more than two or three mouthfuls of solid food at a sitting? Boy's thin as an honest fuckin' alibi."

Bobby pauses for a minute, looks up at the sky as if he's searching for answers, shakes his head in exasperation when the lightning bolt of divine wisdom doesn't zap him between the eyes. "We knew to expect fallout, but he's like Sid and Nancy. And this…" He gestures at the bodies in the truck. "This isn't right. Your brother isn't right, Sam. You know it, I know it. What I can't work out is whether he knows it."

With that, Bobby reaches into his vest pocket, fishes out a matchbook and a bottle of lighter fluid. "Now. You really want to risk a couple of angry spirit dogs with teeth like those haunting your brother?"

Sam shakes his head, and Bobby grins. "I didn't think so."

Dean rocks himself on the porch swing, nurses so hard at his bottle of hemlock that Sam finds himself idly wondering if his brother could suck an egg out of a chicken if he really tried.

Dean looks up, smirks, glances back out over the lot as Bobby's truck heads out under the sign, clouds of dust billowing up behind it. "He said it didn't he?"

Sam pointedly looks at the bottle and then at his wristwatch. "It's ten-thirty, Dean."

"Well fuck that," his brother drawls. "I'm on Greenwich fuckin' mean time before midday. And right now it's… it's…" He frowns.

"Five hours, Dean."

"I thank you, Samuel. It's three-thirty far as I'm concerned. Miller time." Dean takes another long draught, belches loudly before parking the bottle next to his boot, stretching out, shoving his fingers into his hip pockets. And Sam knows he's doing it to hide the fact that his hands are shaking.

"You've switched one drug for another," he says quietly.

Dean blinks up at him, thrown off-guard for a second, but then he catches the ball and runs with it. "Poor Sammy," he mocks. "He found out Major Tom's a junkie…" He smiles but it doesn't reach his eyes. "What can I say… guess I'm stuck with a valuable friend, but hey – I'm happy. Hope you're happy too." And suddenly his right leg is jiggling up and down, and Sam knows Dean saw his eyes flick towards it.

Dean bends his knee and rests his boot up on the edge of the seat, and his tone is all faked brightness as he continues. "He said it didn't he?"

"Said what, Dean?" Sam knows damn well what's coming next. He's getting served.

"It's cat-killers who grow up to be Son of Sam, kiddo," his brother sneers. "For dogs you get extra points." He laughs, low, cold, mean. "Son of fuckin' Sam. Fancy living life as the son of Sam. Good thing Jess never popped one out, huh? Good thing that demon got in there before you and she—"

He stops abruptly, has to really, because in a blur of motion Sam has whirled, grabbed him, hauled him up onto his feet and flung him hard against the siding, has his forearm rammed up under his throat. And Sam can literally see it leave his brother's eyes like a shadow lifting, the unsettling phantom of not-Dean, and he thinks it's high fucking time that ghost was laid to rest.

"Don't," Dean breathes, eyes wide with apprehension.

Sam stares at him for a long moment, sees no bile now, only anxiety and fear, and somewhere inside he feels a sneaking sense of relief that his brother isn't fighting back because he knows damn well how Dean can switch to blinding, white-hot violence in the blink of an eye. But his relief is tempered by the fact that his brother's apathy is sickeningly reminiscent of Gabriel Bender's. "Do you even know you're doing this?" he asks. "Are you aware?"

He steps back and Dean slides to the floor, sits there, disconsolate, doesn't meet his eyes.

"Aware of what?" Dean mutters. "Doing what?"

"Dean, Jesus," Sam grates out. "I'm trying not to push you on this, but you're spaced out one minute and twenty-eight days later the next. Your nightmares are terrifying me, so God only knows what they're doing to you. From what Bobby says, that whiskey you're drinking could blow South Dakota off the map if you set a match to it—"

"Don't," Dean cuts in sharply. "Just – don't. I can't. Do this. I can't do this with you, Sam. And I'm not doing it with you."

Sam gazes down at his brother, sees Dean's eyes nervously flicking over to his sneakers, up as far as his knees but no further. Sam sighs, slides down next to him, feels Dean tense up as usual when his shoulder hits against him, sees his fists clench, white-knuckled.

"This isn't you, Dean."

"I know."

"You aren't spiteful."

"I know."

"You're running away from it and you aren't getting better."

"I know."

"You have to talk about it, you have to let it out."

"I know."

And with that, Dean abruptly pushes up to his feet, walks over to the porch steps, scans the lot.

Not talking today, then, Sam thinks. "Dean, please don't walk away from me," he presses. "This thing with Bobby's dogs, it—"

Dean's voice is edgy. "Did Bobby lock up the dogs before he left?"

Sam quirks his head, feels his eyebrows gallop up towards his hairline. "What?"

"The dogs. Are they out of the way?"

"Dean, you just…" Sam stops, exhales sharply. "It's extra points for dogs. You said that, you just said it, man…"

Dean stares down at him, and there's a sort of lost confusion in his eyes. "Sam, you're making no sense," he snaps. "You know the dogs make me nervous. Are they secured?"

And Sam feels weary, sad, scared, hears the echo of Bobby's voice in his head, your brother isn't right, Sam. "In a manner of speaking," he replies.

Dean frowns. "What does that mean? Don't jerk my chain, dude. I'm serious… Are they locked up?" His voice rises suddenly, rises on a note of all-too-familiar panic, and Sam stands too, moves over next to him.

"Yes, Dean. Don't worry, the dogs won't bother you again. I promise."

"I'm going for a walk then," Dean announces, and he glances back at Sam as he starts down the porch steps, before his attention is caught by a car coughing and spluttering its way up under the arch until it farts out a puff of black smoke and grinds to a halt some distance from the house.

The door opens and the driver clambers out.

"Chick, I got it," Dean says, back in the game all of a sudden.

Sam shakes his head, can't help smiling as his brother strolls towards the car, all loose-limbed, faded denim, glowing in the sunshine. Fuck, he thinks, sometimes even he feels it inside when his brother turns it up to eleven. "And zing went the strings of her heart," he murmurs out loud. He thinks, what the heck then, picks up his brother's abandoned bottle and takes a mouthful. And for a second he freezes, knows steam is blowing out his ears, his eyes are shooting out on stalks and his gray matter just melted and ran out his nostrils. He lurches to the porch railing and spits out the hooch, splutters and hacks messily, has to wipe his burning tongue on his sleeve.

Dean stops, glances back at him, and grins. "Pan-galactic fuckin' gargle blaster, kiddo," he calls out, cheerfully. "Your brain just got smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick."

He continues towards the car, and Sam trails along behind him, spitting, trying to tamp down his unease, and thinking his brother has a liver like the T-101.

But that the rest of him is cracked, shattered. Maybe broken beyond repair.