Merry Christmas ya filthy animals - and a Happy New Year.


"Time to light it up, kiddo."

"Would it kill you to sound a lil' less enthusiastic?"

"C'mon, Sam. Fire is fun!"

"Said every pyromaniac ever."

"You're just jealous because you have to sit there while I have all the fun."

"Oh yes, definitely, 'cause there's nothin' more fun than draggin' around a bunch of corpses."

"Said every serial killer ever." The hunter quipped.

"I was bein' sarcastic, Dean." Sam sighed, his exasperation evident as ever.

"Oh really? I couldn't tell." The older boy replied with his own thick sarcasm, before grunting at the pain that spiked in his back as he dragged one of the many corpses to the corner of the dark room.

"Careful." Sam called out from where he was leaning back against the wall.

Dean paused his task of separating the most decomposed bodies from the pile and looked up, his head tilted and eyebrows raised, a smirk already playing on his lips.

"Careful?" He parroted, entirely unable to hide his amusement.

The cellar was dark, but not enough to prevent Dean from spotting his little brother's glare.

"You worried one of the bodies is just going to pop back to life?" He chuckled.

"You know that's not what I meant." Sam was literally sulking, which only elevated Dean's level of enjoyment.

"I mean, the notion might not be too absurd in our line of work." Dean allowed as he proceeded to sort through the rotting carcasses. "But I think if one of these things was going to reanimate it would have done that already. We've been down here awhile, and I did already build a tower, so I think it's safe to say there ain't no life left in these bones." Dean concluded, standing to his full height and dusting his hands off, as if his jeans could magically clean away all the nasty human leftovers he just touched.

He looked at his little brother, frowning at the shivers he could see ripping through the kid from across the room, but the amused expression on the young face caught him by surprise.

"Notion? Reanimate? Are y' certain you're not possessed?" Sam's shiver-induced slur did nothing to hide his teasing tone.

"Ooh, college-boy thinks he's the only one who knows fancy words." Dean teased.

"Sorry, jus' rememberin' the last time we played scrabble. Th' longest n' most complicated word you made was rebar." The younger man snickered.

"Dude, that was like six or seven years ago." Dean remarked as he started searching the bodies, pulling out wallets or any other items that the authorities could use to ID the bodies. He wasn't even able to remember the last time they had played that stupid word game.

"Oh, yes. You were much younger then." Sam drawled.

"Exactly."

"M'sure you'd do much better now."

"Of course."

"I guess we'll hafta see 'bout that."

Dean tossed another wallet to the side and glanced up at the hazel eyes that remained focused on him. "Did you just challenge me to a scrabble game?"

"If y' think you can handle it."

"Wow. Little brother, that might be – yup – that is the lamest thing you have ever done."

A surprised bark of laughter filled the small space, the sound of it prompting an immediate grin out of Dean. The moment was light, the banter familiar and comforting; but as Sam's smile morphed into a grimace when particularly violent shiver jolted his injured leg – the hazards of their reality were illuminated.

"You think so?" Sam muttered, trying to keep up the running joke even through his visible discomfort.

Dean hummed his agreement, tugging an engraved watch off what was left of an arm, and adding it to the pile of evidence that would be left anonymously at the police station.

"You managed to out-dork yourself, kiddo. I never thought it was possible." Dean elaborated, playing along as he worked to sift quicker through the bodies, worried about how pale his little brother was looking.

"Is that a no then?"

"Pfft. Of course not. You know I'd never turn down a challenge, no matter how lame it is. As soon as we get ourselves out of here, I'll be happy to beat your ass at scrabble."

"You might just have a ch-chance if I lose all my fingers." It was said in jest, Dean could hear the tone, but it sure as fuck wasn't funny.

He looked up from the corpse he was leaning over, giving the younger man a sharp look.

Sam at least had the sense to look relatively chastised. "Sorry." He mumbled, turtling further into his coat and hiding behind his bangs, just as he had done when he'd been scolded as a child.

Dean had seen the discolouration on those fingers, he knew there was a very real risk of amputation. He could see no humour in joking about a sickeningly possible reality. He clenched his jaw as he finished searching all the bodies for any identification or valuables that could be used as such. He stacked all the surviving possessions in a pile next to Sam, crouching down in front of the younger man.

"For real, kid. How you holding up?"

"Pretty sure you lost the right t' call m' kid when I surpassed you 'n the height department." The brat pointed out – slurring, but still snarky as ever.

"Yeah, I remember the day you figured out you were taller than me. I told you then, and I'm telling you now – no matter what gargantuan sasquatch height you grow to, I will always big your big brother, Sammy. Always."

The younger man quirked a fond smile.

"And quit deflecting and just answer the damn question." Dean continued, utilizing a phrase that lawyer-Sam had thrown his way dozens of times through the years.

"I'm fukin' cold, Dean, but I'm no worse off than you."

The elder brother shook his head, knowing that wasn't true, that while – ya a concussion wasn't great, it was nothing compared to the possibility of losing your fucking fingers.

"Well, we're both about to be incredibly warm"

Sam barked a laugh, "That's one way to put it!"

"Possibly too warm."

"Possibly on fire, you mean?"

"Possibly." Dean admitted with a shrug. "But hopefully the old man got the message and got in the rusted piece of shit and drove his ancient ass over here by now."

"You b-better hope he's not close 'nough to hear that – he'd leave us down here."

Dean chuckled. "You're not wrong, little brother."

"I rarely am." Sam quipped, a little smirk pulling up one side of his mouth, one dimple making an appearance.

"Smart-ass" Dean muttered as he gazed around the dark space, being sure there wasn't anything he missed before executing their flammable plan of action. He came to the reluctant conclusion that things were about as good as they could get, not really something that meant much in a cellar full of dead bodies – but hey, they were Winchesters, they were well-accustomed to being dealt shit hands.

"R-real question who I got that from."

The older hunter couldn't help a smirk at that one. "Oh yeah?" He added, pulling the zippo from his pocket, preparing to light the pile of – well…death.

"Yeah. I got it from my big brother – I learned everything I know from him, everything I am is because of him."

Dean nearly dropped the lighter, his eyebrows shooting up as he spun around to look at the source of such a bold statement.

And this kid – his kid, was just sitting there, staring up at him, with those giant puppy dog eyes.

"Fucking hell, Sam. This better not be some 'in case we die' bullshit."

The lack of response telling Dean that was exactly the kind of bullshit it was.

"We're not dying down here, Sam." He grit out.

The younger man simply shrugged. "It's not like this is our best plan."

Dean rolled his eyes, because as true as that may have been, they sure as fuck have had far worse plans and made it out alive. He had spent his life dragging his kid brother out of fires, he wasn't about to let this one take him.

Not a chance in hell.

"Okay." Sam relents with a soft sigh, not sounding sure at all, but simply resigned.

"Okay." Dean parroted with confidence– annoyed that Sam didn't match it, but willing to take what he could get. "Now that we've got that cleared up, it's time to get this barbeque started.

"Gross, dude." Sam grunted.

The older man smirked as he approached the pile he had made – the one that seemed like it would be the most flammable. It took some time for him to get a real flame going, as it turned out rotting corpses didn't make for the best of kindling.

He stepped back, moving over to the furthest place from the flames – over where Sam was still resting propped against the wall.

"You think it'll grow big enough?"

Dean shrugged. The floor wasn't going to catch at least, but he was hoping the ceiling would. The fire at needed to get big enough that smoke would make its way through the slats above them and signal their location to – a hopefully present – Bobby.

The hunter lets himself slide down to the floor next to his brother, as they watched the small flame flicker from across the dark space.

"I didn't just say that in ca-case we don't make it out o' here." The younger man muttered. Dean glanced to his right, but Sam's gaze was still directed at the fire. "I also said it because it's true."

The elder Winchester scoffed. "Well next time save it for a time when we aren't trapped 12ft under."

"Oh yeah, cause you would hear it so much better any other time." Sam snorted.

Dean wanted to argue, really he did. He wanted to pretend that he could accept such a statement without the threat of death hanging over their heads. But the truth was, a chick-flick moment was a chick-flick moment, with or without immanent danger.

"Well then just don't say shit like that next time." He responded, the smirk on his face and jesting tone hopefully enough to portray to Sammy that he was messing with him. As distasteful and chick-flick moments could be, Dean would always be around to listen to anything his kid had to say, even if it was emotional crap that made him feel all sorts of mushy shit.

"Ahh yes, the Winchester way. Just b-bury everythin' and never talk about it. How could I forget?" Sam returned, a smirk of his own on his lips even as his teeth chattered.

Dean reached back and wrapped an arm around those broad shoulders, pulling the long frame into his side, hearing Sam sigh softly as he relaxed into the hold.

"Exactly, Sammy. The Winchester Way."

"You're impossible." The younger man muttered, shaking his head.

"Harsh. Such a cruel comment. You offend me, Samantha." Dean reacted, feigning a dramatic response to his brother's weak-ass insult.

"Y-you act like I care." Sam replied, a shiver shaking his frame as he spoke.

Dean pulled the long body impossibly closer, wishing he had any of his own body warmth to offer.

"Y-you should take your c-coat back."

Dean barked a laugh at that one. There wasn't anything all that funny about it, but the absurdity of his frostbitten, hypothermia-prone little brother telling Dean to take his coat back wasn't something he could help but react to.

"That would be a lot more convincing if your teeth didn't chatter the entire time."

"You—

Dean cut Sam off before he could conquer the challenge the older hunter had posed – because, yeah, he knew his kid and he knew how the stubborn brat worked.

"And don't worry about it, Sammy, because it's about to get pretty damn toasty down here."

Sam snorted in response, but relented in his meager attempt to wiggle free of the added layer.

The flames were beginning to catch, it was oddly mesmerizing to watch. Usually when they burned the bodies it was a torch and run – not a bonfire. The smoke was bound to get them first – if Bobby didn't show up – and it sure as fuck wouldn't be a pleasant, but he could think of worse ways to go…far worse. He also realized that after giving so much shit to Sam about 'in case they die' speeches, he certainly wouldn't be able to give one of his own. Which, thinking it over, could be for the best. Dean was never much good with words – not the same way Sam was - he always found actions held far more weight.

He pulled his little brother closer to his side, resting his chin on the shaggy head that dropped onto his shoulder.

Things after that got a little…hazy.

The smoke filled up the dark space, it had been difficult to see before, but now it was damn near impossible. Breathing was becoming fairly tricky as well, both hunters having fastened bandanas over their mouths once the flames took form.

They waited and waited – Dean's nerves mounting and oxygen thinning as he prayed to a God he didn't believe in that Bobby would soon appear.

Both of the boys startled at the sudden banging sound from above them. Grime and dirt rained down as the noise escalated. Dean nudged Sam, guiding him to rest back against the wall, before climbing to his feet and planting himself in front of the kid.

He was hoping Bobby was the one making such a ruckus, but he wasn't about to take a chance at being a sitting duck if it wasn't. He watched, squinting and coughing through the smoke, unable to see much of anything, but knowing from the noise that someone was trying to burst through the ceiling.

Dean stepped back as something fell from above them – moving to cover Sam as debris tumbled down around them.

"Dean?" Sam called out behind the bandana over his mouth.

The older man was coughing through the smoke and unable to respond verbally, so he reached down, gripping his little brother's shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. It took some time but eventually there was a sizeable gap above them, not much light was coming through, but at least the smoke was escaping.

"Sam? Dean?"

The elder Winchester breathed a sigh of relief – that was really more of a hacking cough – as their surrogate uncle's voice shouted down from above them.

"Bobby!" Sam attempted to holler in response, before he was taken over by a coughing fit.

"Put the damn bandana back over your mouth, Sammy." Dean muttered, reaching down to nudge the fabric towards his brother's lips.

"What the hell do you two idjits got burning down there?!"

Dean choked out a laugh through the smoke as he turned away from Sam and made his way closer to the middle of the den, standing beneath the hole Bobby had created.

"It's a long story. I'll tell it to you when you get us the fuck out of here, old man."

He smothered a smile at the sound of his uncle's foul-mouthed response and jumped back as a ladder was dropped down and nearly clocked him in the head.

He had no idea where the damn thing came from – wouldn't be surprised if the experienced hunter just travelled around with an extendable one in the bed of his truck, the boy scout that he was. Not that it mattered, Dean wouldn't have bothered questioning if it was a fucking beanstalk that had sprouted through the ground – anything to get them the hell out of there.

"Alright, Sammy. Let's get you up."

Dean reached down, grabbing on to Sam's elbows – not wanting to mess with his damaged hands – and pulled him up. The younger man released a pained groan as he stood – even as he was obviously trying to balance with all his weight on one leg – his injured limb must have been screaming in agony.

"Bobby! You're going to need to get your ass down here and give us a hand!" Dean hollered, trying to figure out how the hell they were going to get his injured kid brother up that ladder.

He hacked on the smoke as he listened to the hunter curse his way down the ladder.

Sam's violent coughing had him nearly bending in half – Dean was fighting to keep him upright, trying to stifle his own need to hack on the smoke that was surrounding them. He was relieved when Bobby arrived and immediately took some of Sam's weight, the long body being propped up between the two older men.

"It's getting mighty toasty down here, boys. We best get moving." The hunter said, the words were casual enough, but his tone easily portrayed his concern. Dean wasn't at all surprised, he could only imagine how they looked by the state they were in.

"Alright Sammy, I'm going to go up first, you keep a hold on me—

"I can't. Dean, I can't hold anything. My hands…" Sam faded off, holding up his covered appendages as he shrugged.

Dean cursed, kicking himself for forgetting that the kid no longer had any control over his fingers. "Alright, then I'll just hold onto you. We will piggy back our way out of here."

"But, De, your back."

The elder Winchester was already shaking his head. "It'll be fine."

"You can't—

"Sam the flames are growing, the alternative is dying down here so just shut the hell up and let us get on with it."

If looks could kill – Dean would have dropped dead in that very moment, actually, he would have been murdered by the bitch faces his brother had thrown his way years ago.

He moved to grab Sam's wrists, but his brother pulled them away.

"Sam!" His patience vanishing, was the kid's goal in life to burn to death?

"Just let me do something."

Dean ground his teeth together, glancing at Bobby who was shaking his head, but both men remained by Sam's side as they watched him fumbling around.

The taller boy reached up and tugged the handkerchief off his face.

"What the hell—

"I have a plan, Dean." He stated as he draped the fabric over his wrists, putting them on top of each other and holding them up. "Tie it." He ordered.

"You want me to tie your wrists together."

"Just do it, boy. I'm getting singed down here." Bobby growled.

Dean rolled his eyes but did as he was told, securing the fabric snuggly around both his brother's boney wrists. "This is uncomfortably kinky." Dean smirked as Sam barked out a laugh, frowning when it morphed into a hacking cough.

"Kay, turn 'round." The youngest Winchester rasped.

Dean complied, turning to face the ladder, eyebrows raising as his brother's bound wrists moved down over his head, Sam's arms wresting around Dean's shoulders as his joined hands dropped to rest against his brother's chest.

"Now you can actually hold onto the ladder while you climb." He croaked.

Dean smirked, giving his head a fond shake. "Good thinking, college boy." He coughed out, sliding one arm through the loop Sam had created, that way it would keep the kid from strangling him as they climbed.

"I'll support his giraffe legs. Let's get the hell out of here." Bobby grumbled.

Dean nodded in full agreement and began to ascend the ladder; it wasn't easy with his little brother hanging off the back (his aching back), Sam wasn't a little runt anymore, he was unnaturally tall, but at least he was still a beanpole. He could feel Bobby climbing close behind him and he wasn't sure if he had Sam's legs on his shoulders or what, but either way he was definitely taking his fair share of the young hunter's weight. With Sam's head on his shoulder blade, Dean could easily hear every grunt and groan of pain, just as he could feel the long frame trembling against his back.

He felt it the moment the body on his back became dead weight.

"Fuck!" Him and Bobby swore in unison.

Dean hurried up the last few steps, climbing up onto solid ground, careful not to dislodge the young man draped over his back. He maneuvered out of Sam's arms, gently laying him on the ground, checking to make sure he was still breathing and his heart was still beating.

"Quit scaring me, Sammy." He whispered between gasps of fresh air, as he felt the thrum of the pulse beneath his fingers and watched his little brother's chest rise and fall.

"Is he—

Dean didn't even let Bobby finish such a question – the implication alone being far too egregious to ponder. "He just passed out, from the pain, but he needs to be at a hospital like yesterday."

"Well let's load him up." Bobby ordered, moving to help Dean lift Sam and get them both situated into the truck.

"Dean!?" Sam gasped out as they moved in, startling into consciousness.

Dean shimmied into the backseat, pulling the long body along with him – apologizing profusely at every whimper and cry Sam released as he was jostled.

"I'm right here, kiddo. Right here." He vowed, holding Sam as he flinched when Bobby slammed the door as they two younger man were fully situated in the backseat, rounding the truck quickly and jumping into the front seat.

"M' hands, De. My hand. Can't feel 'em." Sam rasped out, sounding quiet and fearful and so much younger than he was. Dean held the long body close as Bobby sped down the road.

"I know, Sam. I know. It's alight, little brother. We'll get you fixed up real quick." He assured, keeping hold on Sam's wrists and pressing them against his chest, trying to keep him from moving his hands about the way he had been.

"I can feel 'em, De. Don't tell Dad. Please. Don't tell him." The younger man begged, his giant eyes staring up at his big brother in desperation.

Dean frowned, not having the time or brainpower (thanks to his mounting number of concussions) to unpack that request, but he nodded nonetheless, wanting to put the young man at ease. He appeared to have made the right decision when he felt Sam relax more fully against him, but terror shot through him as he watched his kid brother's eyes fall closed.

"Thanks De." He whispered.

"No, Sammy. C'mon man. Stay awake for me, buddy."

The vehicle began to move even faster, Bobby clearly pushing the gas pedal down to the fucking floor.

Sam's eyes fluttered back open, some of the fear had retreated, but a layer of weariness and pain remained.

"That's it. Just stay with me, Sam. Stay with me."

Dean held his little brother against him on the backseat, maintaining a close watch on his injured leg and keeping his hands pressed against his chest, wishing he could will away the damage he knew had been done to them.

"Just hold on, kiddo. You'll be alright. Everything is going to be okay, Sammy. I promise."

He prayed the universe would not turn him into a liar.


AN: one more chapter to go and then we'll be able to put a bow on this baby. It will be the end of an era. I'm lowkey dreading it lol, but I know it has to be. - Sam