I wrote this after watching 'sex and violence'. The atmosphere in that episodes was just painful to watch – for me, and the next thing I knew this little one shot had basically written itself.

After three weeks of lying untouched on my laptop I decided that today would be the day to post this, so I didn't have any more time to think about doing it or not anymore ;-)

Needless to say – I still don't own them, or much of anything, which is a never-ending source of annoyance to me, I can tell you that…

Deceive yourself

They got back to their room sometime in the early morning hours.

Dean was exhausted, his muscles sore and his head pounding. It wasn't anything bad, nothing worse than usual. As a matter of fact, they'd dealt with so much worse, it hardly deserved mentioning and still Dean felt more weary and ready to drop than most times before.

It was everything – the whole fucked up situation that just became too goddamn much. Too much to deal with, even if he was feeling well and rested, which was unheard of lately. Hell, he didn't remember when exactly he'd had the last good, nightlong rest. Certainly not during the last weeks, not since being back…and not for a long time before that, either.

All he wanted to do was take a shower, hot and steaming, to wash all that dirt and filth off, then lay down in an actual bed – the first one after spending about a month sleeping in the car or squatting in some abandoned building – and sleep for about a week straight. Maybe more.

But it wasn't going to happen. Dean knew that and still he couldn't help but hope that this night it was going to be different.

Which it wouldn't be.

Because even if the nightmares about hell would somehow, miraculously take a break tonight of all nights, there would still be these other issues to deal with, issues that wouldn't let Dean sleep, most likely, even if he tried.

Issues such as his little brother exorcising demons with his freaking mind, for example, or the little fact that the angels intended to kill him if he didn't stop doing it.

Among other things.

Dean shucked off his jacket, dropped it carelessly on the floor next to the door, putting the car keys and his phone on the small table to his right.

Sam strode past him, slamming the door behind his back as he made his way over towards his bed, dumping his own jacket and duffel on top of it wordlessly before grabbing a pair of sweats and a clean t-shirt that laid on top of the covers and strode wordlessly into the bathroom.

Dean stared at the closed door that separated him from his brother for a second, blinking dumbfounded.

What the hell happened to them?

What the hell…

"Could have at least called first shot…!" Dean grumbled towards the closed door, the anger he'd intended to put behind the words barely recognizable as such, instead coated with weariness and worry that hurt in his own ears.

"What the hell happened to us, Sammy?" he whispered, trudging to his own bed, the one closest to the door, dropping down on the mattress as if his body weighed a ton. He grunted as the impact jostled the bulked up muscles of his stiff back, biting down on his bottom lip a tad too late. Even though it didn't matter, Sam wasn't here to hear. Nobody to keep up the pretence for, no one to admonish him for being weak no one that would think less of him if he broke down just a little bit.

Only a little.

No time for the big break-down that he could feel pounding against the walls of his sanity with a frightening insistency lately. Besides, he was strong enough – strong enough to get through this.

They were.

They'd figure out a way…somehow. They would. Dean just had to figure out how to stay sane till then.

Dean heard the water in the shower come on, heard the rustle of clothes being taken off and dropped to the ground, then the wet squeal of his brother's bare feet as the slipped a little in the tub.

Dean closed his eyes, scooted back on the bed until he was able to drag his feet up onto the mattress, bending his knees to let his still boot-clad feet come to rest on top of the covers. He hissed as his right ankle tore painfully inside his shoe, the joint feeling strangely hot and swollen, the faint echo of his heartbeat reverberating through the obviously twisted limb.

He'd had a hard time walking straight and without a limp on his way out of the graveyard and to the car, intent on not letting Sam see, confident that it would all be better by morning, that Sam would never find out. To not give him another reason to think of his brother as weak and not capable enough.

Driving had been Ok, albeit painful, but by the time they reached the motel walking smoothly had been close to impossible and Dean knew that it was only due to the fact that Sam was not looking at him, never looking at him anymore, lately, that he hadn't noticed. A year ago Sam would have practically fussed over him, would have offered to freaking carry him, even, at the slightest hint that something was wrong with his big brother. Not that Dean had wanted Sam to fuss back then, and he sure didn't want it now…but it would have been nice to have it back, kinda, to have that kind of familiarity again.

To have his brother back.

Dean lifted his leg up, tried to rotate his ankle, testing the mobility, trying to determine how bad it was and what he could do about it.

Without letting Sam see.

"Something wrong with your leg?" Sam's voice almost made Dean jump off the bed.

So much about keeping this a secret.

Sam was standing in the open door of the bathroom – Dean hadn't even heard the water being turned off - a cloud of billowing steam engulfing his body. He had a towel slung around his waist, his hair wet and slicked back from his face, giving it an even harder appearance than before. His face looked…so much older than Dean remembered, much older than four months apart would justify, so much more determined yet…sad, lost, at the same time.

Dean couldn't help but marvel at his little brother's physique – also different than what he remembered from…before. Not that Sam had ever been weak – untrained. Far from it. But somehow those four months apart had changed him, in ways that Dean couldn't really figure out, other than just the obvious. He'd put on bulk, had gotten thinner while at the same time building up muscles. And he'd assembled a scary amount of scars to add to the ones Dean remembered.

Funny, the way Dean's body had been reborn nearly unscathed - it almost seemed as if all his scars, all his old war-wounds had been transferred to his little brother's body instead. And that in itself was so wrong, Dean hardly knew how to handle the thought of it. Dean was the older one, the more experienced one, the one standing between his little brother and danger whenever possible, taking blows intended for Sammy without ever complaining, cherishing the scars those encounters left him with. Taking them as a reminder of his purpose, his responsibility.

Now those scars were gone and somehow Dean felt as if his purpose had left with them.

"Dean…something wrong with your leg?" Sam walked over to Dean's bed, stopping next to him without getting too close. He was still wet, little droplets of water splattering down on Dean when Sam ran a hand over his chest, rubbing it over a shallow scratch there.

Dean dropped the leg he'd still been holding up, hissing when the limb hit the mattress a little too hard, jostling it painfully.

Damn this…

"It's nothing, Sam…" he said, his voice mimicking Sam's flat tone, attempting to raise himself off the bed and escape into the safety of the bathroom before Sam could inquire any further.

But Sam was faster than him, taking a step towards the foot of Dean's bed and taking a hold of Dean's leg before he could draw it away. Dean felt himself tense with the hardness of Sam's grip, momentarily jerking back before he was able to relax himself.

Sam felt it, no doubt, the way his jaw hardened, his eyes closing for a second before opening again, a sure enough sign, then his fingers relaxed around Dean's calve, his grip becoming less forceful.

"You fell…"

"'t was more like I got thrown against a tree…but yeah, I fell, kinda…" Dean shrugged, trying to make his voice sound casual.

"It's nothing, Sam. I just wanna take a shower and go to sleep."

Again he attempted to get up, again Sam tightened his grip, only less violent this time, a gentle force behind it, persuading Dean to stay down.

"Let me have a look at it." He said in the same soft, flat voice as before, his eyes never meeting Dean's, not moving to actually inspect the ankle though, waiting for his brother's permission. For a second Dean considered not giving this permission, considered getting up and walking away, just like Sam had walked away from him. But there was something in his little brothers posture, the slump of his shoulders, that gave Dean pause.

Maybe, just maybe not all was lost…maybe there was something left.

Dean slumped back down wordlessly, relaxing his muscles as silent agreement to Sam's administrations. He kept his eyes on his brother though, watching him carefully, like he'd done so many times during the last weeks, trying to figure out what had changed between them, hoping to find the answer, knowing that he wouldn't. Not today.

Sam nodded to himself, eyes briefly flickering to the side, then settling on Dean's leg as he carefully opened the laces of the boot, slipping it off. Dean felt the pull of the leather against swollen skin, pulled his good leg up further to have some leverage and keep himself braced.

Sam started to peel off Dean's sock. For a crazy second Dean thought about making a smart remark about his feet smelling, considered telling Sammy to get a mask or something, but held back at the last second. They weren't at the point where they could joke without fearing some kind of misunderstanding, and for some reason that thought once again sent a pang of pain through Dean's gut that had nothing to do with an angry spirit tossing him against a tree or punching him in the stomach.

How had they come to this?

"Move your toes…?" it wasn't really a question, nor was it a request, but Dean was too tired to quip or argue or get into another fight. So he wriggled his toes a little, then tried to rotate the ankle a bit, hissing as he couldn't, much.

"This doesn't look good…did you twist it, or do you think it's broken?"

Sam's huge hand ran gently over the aching limb, fingers still soft from soaking in the shower strangely cooling and warming against the swollen skin at the same time. Dean saw that the ankle was barely recognizable as such anymore, the bloating extending from right above the ankle to almost all the way down to his toes by now. The skin was tightly drawn over his flesh, giving it a strangely unreal look. Almost like the shiny limb of a doll, too thick and too artificial in coloring to be real.

"Don't think it's broken. I could walk just fine… it's probably just sprained a little…"

Sam huffed a low laugh, for the first time looking at Dean, if only for just a second.

"Probably more than just a little, Dean. This looks like you could have torn something."

"Well, I haven't…it's just sprained. I know the feeling. I'll put some ice on it and I'll be as good as new in the morning."

The mood had once again shifted, tensed up another notch. Why ever they would come to argue over something like this… Well, Sam thinking of him as weak, thought that Dean held him back as it was probably had something to do with it. Dean being injured now probably wouldn't serve to strengthen Sam's trust in his big brother any.

Sam rolled his shoulders, the tension visible in his back, his biceps, yet his hands were still strangely soft and gentle on Dean's ankle, holding him steady. The motion so familiar, Dean almost felt like they could get past this…that somehow they could go back to normal, if just for tonight.

Don't go to bed angry…someone used to say that to him, but Dean couldn't remember who it had been. Definitely not dad – because he always ended any argument by either walking out on them or going straight to bed, shutting his sons out.

"You think you can stand up…take a shower? We still have some of that lotion from when I twisted my knee. I can rub that on later, bandage it up. I saw an ice-machine out in the hall, maybe, if we keep it cool and you prop it up for a couple of days…"

Dean couldn't remember any incident when Sam had twisted his knee, at least not recently enough for them to still have any ointment or lotion for it, but he nodded nonetheless, slipping his foot out of Sam's grasp as carefully as possible, getting up.

The first step was hard, the ankle almost giving out from under him, the pain seemingly enhanced yet another couple of notches since he'd walked in here.

Sam was standing next to him all of a sudden, one hand on Dean's elbow, steadying him, attempting to lead and support him. And before Dean knew it, he'd shrugged off the helping hand, a little too harshly maybe, taking a determined step forward and away from Sam.

The look in Sam's eyes was devastating, a mixture between hurt and disappointment that Dean knew…and didn't know all at the same time. He'd always been so good at reading his little brother, had known every single expression on the kid's face, every change in posture, had been able to read his words and his silence alike. Now, all he could come up with was things that he didn't want to see, emotions that he didn't understand anymore. And he hated it.

"I'm fine…I can handle it." Dean ground out, his eyes hard, trained on Sam who still wouldn't meet his gaze.

Dean waited, gave Sam a minute to look at him, gave him 60 seconds to look up and look at him, truly look at him again. When he didn't, Dean turned and limped away, into the bathroom, the only retreat he had left.

Once inside he felt himself starting to shake, the tremors starting as little shivers that he could write off to the cool feel of sweat that had dried on his skin at first, but soon turned into full on, seizure like tremors that left him flailing helplessly for the sink, holding on with a death grip to keep himself from falling. He reached for the shower fixtures, turned on the water to drown out his gasps of pain – emotional and physical, still not willing to give in, even when he was sure that Sam wouldn't be able to hear.

This had to stop, it simply had to.

If this was what he'd come back to, if this was the way it was going to be for the rest of his life…he didn't want it. He didn't want it.

Everything was better than this. Everything.

Even hell…then at least he'd still have hope, somewhere, buried so deep it had hardly been there anymore, but still there, somewhere. Still there. Back there he'd at least had hope – and the knowledge that he'd done it for a reason. If he'd known what he'd come back to…

Damn Castiel, damn god. Damn the weight of the world, literally, on his shoulders. Damn them all. Because this had never been part of the deal. What was the use of coming back to find his brother gone already?

Dean had changed, he knew that, didn't need Sam or Ruby or Bobby or whoever the fuck else to spell it out to him. He knew it. Had known it the minute he'd dug his way out of that fucking grave, dirt in his mouth, fear in his heart.

He'd known it but even then he'd still had hope. Hope that, with the help of his little brother, he'd be able to get over it. He hadn't remembered hell, hadn't remembered all the awful things he'd done in order to survive down there, and still he'd known that it wouldn't be that easy – real life held no get-out-of-hell- free cards. He'd known that it would all come back to haunt him, one way or the other, and still he'd seen a light at the end of the tunnel.

Because back then he'd still had trusted Sam to help him get through it, whatever it was. Now that he knew – everything – he marvelled at his own stupidity. Marvelled at his own gullibility, his willingness to believe that things would ever work out for a Winchesters to start with.

He'd been to hell. And back. Literally.

Only to be stuck in another kind of hell, one that was far worse than the one he remembered.

Dean straightened his back, refusing to break down, not with his brother in the next room. He could always wait for him to go out again, to team up with his little pet-demon…

He practically ripped the clothes off his body, climbed into the bathtub and let the steaming hot water beat down on his bare skin, almost scorching him, making his skin turn bright red within seconds.

His ankle thrummed in beat with his heart, and he stood on one leg, bent forward a little, his hands against the wall of the shower stall, head dropped between his shoulders to let the water torture his sore back. The heat was making him feel dizzy, lightheaded, the pain in his ankle intensifying inexplicably with every pulsing surge of blood flowing through it.

But he couldn't get himself to get out of the tub, couldn't get himself to even lower the temperature. He relished he pain, relished the heat – anything to take his mind off the torture that awaited him just beyond that door, the very earthly torture of a brother he didn't recognize anymore, that didn't trust him anymore. Anything to make him feel again – feel something other than this emptiness...

Dean sucked in a breath that didn't seem to reach is lungs, gasped as only hot steam filled his mouth and seared down his throat. He slammed the flat of one hand against the tiles, felt himself slipping on the wet porcelain of the tub, straightening himself. Another breath that didn't bring nearly enough air into his lungs and he slipped again, his hands not able to hold him upright anymore and he brought his bad foot down, attempting to find his balance.

The ankle screamed out its protest as his weight came down on it, buckled as he tried to adopt his balance. The leg slipped out from underneath him and he came down, body following gravity to smash against the side of the shower, then slipping out through the opening of the plastic shower wall. He tried to break some of his fall in reaching out his hand for the wall, the edge of the tub, missing by mere inches. Then his head connected with something hard and unyielding and finally, finally nothing mattered anymore.


"Dean…hey Dean. Come on, dude, you gotta wake up. If you don't wake up in the next five minutes I'm gonna call an ambulance. And I'm not gonna get you dressed before they come…"

Dean heard a chuckle, low and gravelly, heard the scrape of what could only be Sam's hand running over his stubbled cheek. Something cold was pressed against his temple and it was only then that Dean realized that his head felt funny, thick and pounding, his tongue coated with the coppery taste of dried blood.

He couldn't move, didn't want to move, not just yet. He revelled in the peace he felt, a peace he shouldn't be feeling, by all means. For the first time in weeks, maybe months he felt content in just laying here and not moving, not trying to fix anything.

Because there was nothing to fix.

Dean had tried, and failed. Once again. He'd thought that he could make thinks right again and he'd been wrong, like he'd been wrong about so many fucking things in his life.

He'd thought that they could get through this, together.

But apparently, there was no together anymore, not for them.

He felt like screaming, like crying, like punching something. But instead he chose to just lie there, to not let his brother know that he was awake and aware. So what if he called the ambulance…it didn't matter. Didn't matter if he was stark naked when they got here, either.

Sam sighed and shifted next to him, removed the cold towel he'd apparently used to press against the fast growing bump on Dean's forehead, then returned a minute later with a fresh one.

"Hit your head good, you stubborn jerk. You could have split your damn skull open with that fall… Pretty much cooked yourself well done in there, too. I think you even burned your skin in places with the hot water."

Sam's voice was different, different than before, at least. Now, there was emotion in it, even though Dean didn't quite mange to read it.

"Come on, Dean, please. I know…" Sam cleared his throat. "No, I don't know. I don't know what I know anymore. This is…I want you back, Dean…I want us back. Just like before… but I don't know how to do it. And I know you want it too, but I don't know how to make things right again. I don't know anything anymore…"

Sam choked up a little and Dean thought his heart would shatter into a thousand tiny pieces at the sound of despair in his brother's voice, a sound that would have stirred him into action from the deepest slumber, usually. It would have thrown him into gear and right into full on protection mode.

But right now there was nothing left anymore, nothing left to dig up to fuel him. It wasn't Sam's place to worry, wasn't right that it would leave him as scared and broken as he sounded right now. It was Dean's job, always had been, but he was running on empty here, and for once he couldn't bring himself to care anymore.

He'd watched his brother exorcise a demon with his mind. He'd watched his eyes go dark, had watched his baby brother turn into someone he didn't even recognize anymore.

This was Sam, his little brother, the only person on this planet that had looked up to Dean, that had basically worshipped him, had idolized him, once upon a time. But all of this was gone now, Dean had no idea when or how it happened, but it had. His little brother's voice, once ready to make Dean listen, no matter what, now only served to make him cringe and wonder if it was even speaking the truth anymore.

Even though…this now – the voice drifting to him through layers of fog, was like listening to an old recording of their former life – a scene from their past, when they'd still trusted each other.

But Dean knew that, if he opened his eyes now, the scene would be gone again, replaced by the harsh and terrible reality that was their life now.

Dean had left. It had been one of the best and worst decinisions of his life.

He'd left his little brother and thus had made Sam turn into…this. Whatever this was. Dean had thought he'd done the right thing, but in the end he'd screwed up yet again. He should have listened to their dad's instruction to never let Sammy out of his sight, to protect him above all else. He should have stayed here, should have protected Sam, should have kept him safe. Or, at least, he should have prepared him better, should have made sure that he wouldn't fall, wouldn't break once Dean was gone.

Dean had thought that he'd saved Sam, had saved him by going to hell, never realizing that in doing that, he'd condemned his little brother to hell as well. A different kind than he'd endured, sure, but one no less dreadful. One Dean himself hadn't been able to bear for even a couple of hours.

"You'll be alright, Dean…we'll be alright. Somehow…" Sam's voice drifted off and he didn't care to hide the heavy sigh that accompanied the heavy silence that followed.

Dean kept his eyes closed.

He heard Sam move again, then something cold pressed against his ankle and Dean barely managed not to twitch as Sam tied an ice pack to his limb, then propped it up on a stack of pillows. He pulled a sheet over Dean's lower body, for decency's sake, before settling once again down on the mattress next to his brother.

Dean felt the dip and the warmth that immediately seeped into him as Sam sat close, yet not close enough to touch. He kept his eyes closed, thinking furiously about what to say, what to do next. If he opened his eyes now, if he dared to ever open them again, would Sam still be there? Would Dean himself still be there? For the first time in months, ever since he'd come back, he was not afraid of closing his eyes, not afraid of the nightmares awaiting him in the darkness – he was afraid of what he'd see in the harsh reality of an anonymous and ill-illuminated motel room.

For the first time in months, no years, he allowed himself to be weak, to not stand up to his fears and face them, head on.

For the first time in years he chose the easy way out and just kept his eyes closed, let himself drift off, listening to his brother breathing next to him.

He gave himself up to the imagination that everything was alright again, everything just as it used to be.

Hell and heaven and angels just as unreal as vampires and werewolves to people that didn't know they existed.

Dean deceived himself all too willingly and persuaded his tired brain to believe that both Sam and he still were the men they used to be before it all went south - that Dean himself hadn't changed too much to ever be whole again.

All he wanted to believe was, that when he woke up again, he'd have Sam back - that they'd be brothers again.

The end


Alright, so, what do you think? Was it too much - or too out of character? I haven't seen the last…uhm...I think four episodes of season 4 yet, so this might be completely wrong, but at the time I wrote it, it seemed to fit.

If you find the time, please let me know what you think. I'd like to know if I completely blew it or if I wasn't all that far off track!

Thank y'all and take care!