"He's awake! Hold him down!"
Dean's eyes snapped open. All around him were shapes and shadows, dancing underneath a blaring white light, pressing him down on a dirty table like he was some asylum reject. The initial shock and disorientation lasted only a split second before his training kicked into high gear. Dean pushed against his assailants and kicked out, nailing one in the groin. He laughed as the guy doubled over, but didn't bask in the enjoyment for very long. Not about to let an opportunity pass, Dean flipped his body and dove toward the opening the man had left behind.
He never saw the blow coming.
Dean reeled as something blunt hit him on the back of his head. His vision skewed, and he felt a wave of nausea as little black dots floated in front of his eyes. He wasn't sure if he lost consciousness or not, but as the black spots cleared, he realized he was back on the table, his hands firmly chained down by his sides.
Chains? He shook his fists. His last memory of chains…
"Hey!" Dean fought against the restraints, trying to keep his feelings of panic at bay. His gaze locked onto a guy, large and pumped, who looked like Hercules' ugly twin brother. "Yo, Rambo!" Dean shouted, yanking at the chains. "Overcompensating much?"
The man, who clearly was the leader, eyed him once before snapping his fingers at another guy watching from the side. "Gag him."
Before Dean had the chance to finish, some brute shoved an oily rag into his mouth. Dean gagged, his nostrils burning from the scent. It smelled like bad fish.
He jerked his arms and legs against the chains, struggling to figure out how to get free and spit out the damn gag. He couldn't remember how he got here or when or just who the hell these people were. All he remembered was dying and Hell.
And Sam. As the Hell Hounds had ripped him to shreds, he had seen a few brief flashes of Ruby wielding something against Sam, but that was it. He couldn't remember anything after that. He'd been dead. Dead, hot, and trapped.
His panicked gaze darted around the room. His first thought was that Sam was okay and had found a way to bring him back, but as he panned the faces in the small crowd, he didn't see Sam anywhere.
He had to believe that Sam survived the confrontation with Lilith. He had to hold onto the hope that Sammy was out there, still fighting and winning.
Then he thought maybe they were demons or Lilith's people, but when he saw one of the men take out a Bible and another one take out the holy water, he knew immediately what was happening. He was going to get exorcized.
Dean shouted to them, but only his muffled grunts made it through the gag. They continued despite his muffled protests, one guy chanting some psalms from the Bible while the other began an exorcism from a small book that reminded Dean of his dad's journal, only worse for wear. As they performed the ritual, the full reality of the situation hit him.
He honestly didn't know where he was. He didn't know when he was. He could have been trapped in Hell for centuries, beaten and worn with each passing year, until there was nothing left. He might not be him anymore.
Dean didn't want to think about that. He just had to find Sam or Bobby or someone.
Two others started splashing him with holy water.
Dean half expected it to work. He cringed each time the water hit his skin, but to his surprise, nothing happened. He shook his head, keeping the droplets out of his eyes.
His captors seemed just as surprised. Yet, they finished their exorcism without pausing, without stopping to question him or torture him. When they were done, they closed the books and stared at him, almost with pity.
He would have loved to clock them all right then.
"He's clean," the leader said. "Give it to him."
Dean tensed as he saw the men converging on him. Again, he pushed against the shackles, jerking at the chains, and hoped for a weak link. He ignored the pain as the metal cut into his flesh and kept yanking at the restraints over and over, until his eyes widened at the sight of an attractive young woman holding a small cup.
Crap, they were going to have him chug down some rufied up potion.
Dean started thrashing the table as the men came to hold him down. He figured the more he moved, the harder it would be for them to pour that junk down his throat. Unfortunately, the men were too many, and they managed to lock him into place. The leader came up to him next, followed by the woman, and hovered over him.
"I can't take any chances that you're one of the men he's changed." The man reached over and removed the gag. As soon as it was gone, Dean spit at the man's face, but the guy wasn't fazed a bit. "I should have expected that from you," he said as he wiped his chin. "This won't take long. It'll be over soon."
"I swear to God, as soon as I'm free I'm gonna—"
The liquid was like acid in his mouth. It burned, spiking little pinpricks of pain across his tongue and gums until he felt them blister and peel. Dean buckled at the sting, gagging as he tried to spit the fire out of his mouth. But the bastard held his head in place, keeping his mouth open, as the woman poured every last drop down his tortured throat.
Tears streamed down his face from the power of the pain. He felt his body spasm and release. As he breathed out, he noticed the men had finally let go, even if he remained shackled to the table. The leader towered over him, running his hand over one of the chains.
Dean forced a smile. "Man, I'm not into that kind of kink."
"Funny." The man clamped the shackle harder; Dean winced. "Did he send you here?"
He squeezed harder. "Don't play with me."
"Does it look like I'm friggin' playing?" Dean coughed and cleared his throat, trying to steady his hoarse voice. His wrist throbbed from the pressure, but he wasn't about to let some psycho get his kicks off his pain. "You got a problem with me, talk straight."
"You and I both know he doesn't let his people go. You either escaped, or you're one of them."
The dude had to be talking about Hell.
"What? You think I'm some demon? I'm no demon." Though, Dean had to admit he wasn't even convinced by his own plea. "Your little exorcism proved that."
"You seem surprised."
"Last I heard, I was roasting the Colonel style. Extra crispy."
The man frowned and narrowed his eyes. "You've been behind enemy lines for five years."
"Five years? Seriously?" Dean tried to wrap that concept around his head. He couldn't remember anything about Hell other than he'd been both hot and cold, in pain and numb. He couldn't imagine being in Hell for five years and not remember anything but a bad scene out of a Hellraiser movie. "Look, I think I'd remember being toasty for five years."
"You honestly don't remember, do you?" The man cocked his head and studied him in a way that made Dean want to squirm. "The demons run this world."
Dean stared at him. That wasn't what he'd wanted to hear.
"There are only a few of us left, hidden, tucked away in secluded sacred safe havens." His eyes grew hard, intense, in a way that Dean often recalled seeing in his father in the middle of a hunt. "You understand I have to take precautions."
"You expect me to believe all that bull your shoveling?"
"He must have had extreme control over you if you can't remember," the man said, his voice almost sad. "Though, it was expected."
"Man, I don't know what you've been smokin', but it's seriously messed with your head."
The stranger studied him closely. "We do the best we can with what the Lord has given us."
Oh, lovely. That was fantastic. Dean needed to get away from this crazy religious cult and find Sam. With a grunt, he lifted one of his arms as high as it would go and jingled the chains. "Why don't you show me some of that godly mercy, and let me go?"
He laughed. "Why would I do that? I can't risk having you run back to your master and give away our location."
"Master? Do I look like a cabana boy?"
"Maybe you'll talk to someone else."
Dean laughed. "Not gonna happen."
The man waved his hand, calling one of his lackeys to the table. The leader whispered something in his ear, which resulted in a sharp nod from the other before he scurried out of the room.
Dean hit the table with his head in aggravation. If he were to believe that the whole word went apocalypto while he had a reservation downstairs, then he had to assume Sam had lost the good fight. Sam wouldn't have let the demons take over. He would have fought them with every last breath. And with his obsessive determination that rivaled their dad's, Dean knew that the only way these sons of bitches would have won is if Sam had gone down, but gone down swinging.
Dean swallowed hard. He'd really screwed up this time.
"Send him in."
Dean craned his neck to see the messenger boy had returned. Sweat trickled down from his forehead into his eyes, stinging him, and blurring his vision. Yet despite the blur, he noticed the messenger boy had entered with someone Dean hadn't expected.
Bobby paused at the door, and aside from a quick glance in Dean's direction, he kept his attention focused on the man of the hour.
"He's clean?" Bobby asked.
"We gave him the sap. That should stave off any demonic influence that might have been cast over him." He glared at Dean and then Bobby, a warning tone entering his voice. "But he stays cuffed until we're sure he isn't a spy."
Bobby nodded. He grabbed a chair and pulled it over to the table, essentially switching spots with the man that had been running the show for the past hour.
Dean felt odd, like he was trapped in this foggy land where everything was similar but different. He was glad to finally see a familiar face, something that helped ground him, someone to get a message to Sam, but at the same time he had no idea why Bobby would be mixed up with a group like this.
He felt like he was living some crazy nightmare.
Bobby gave him that hard, thoughtful look that always made Dean feel two inches tall. "That really you?" he asked.
"No, it's the friggin' toothfairy. Of course it's me." He stopped and lowered his voice when Bobby sent him a hard glare. "Bobby, what the hell's going on?"
"A lot's gone down since you left."
"Really? Cause I'd never have guessed." Dean turned his head, trying to get a better assessment of the room. Rambo was watching them like a hawk, while his lackeys fussed over some old rusted out radios or cleaned the barrels of a few sawed-off shotguns.
Then there was Bobby. He was the same old Bobby he'd always known, but he looked decades older, like he carried the scars of a lifetime in his weary face, more than anything he'd carried before, and certainly more than the supposed five years Dean had been in Hell.
None of that mattered right now. Dean had more important things on his mind.
He licked his dry lips and raised his head, scouring the room one more time, but came up empty. Frowning, he turned back to Bobby. "Where's Sam?"
A brief wave of regret and sadness washed over Bobby's face. It vanished almost as quickly as it had come, but his silence told Dean enough. He knew something awful had happened to his little brother.
"Dammit." He swallowed hard, struggling to keep his voice from cracking. "Did he die?"
Confusion flickered in Bobby's eyes. Dean's frown deepened. For a second, he was convinced Bobby thought he was insane. He heard a snort from the man in the back.
Bobby turned his head to the leader. "Will ya let us talk?"
He lingered for a minute, giving Dean a long hard glare, but finally nodded, stepping back to give the two of them some space. Bobby slid the chair a little closer, but not too close, Dean realized. Any comfort from Bobby's presence evaporated.
Dean hesitated, his gaze flickering back to the man a few steps behind them. Then, he lowered his voice again, trying to make sure it didn't break. "Did I come back wrong?" he asked.
Bobby kept his face as hard as stone, but he couldn't hide the emotion from his eyes. He turned his head and wiped his face, finding a spot on the wall and staring at it for the time being.
"Hey, I deserve the truth here."
"You've been with 'em for a good five years," Bobby said. "We dunno how much damage they did."
"Them?" Dean started to feel uneasy again as it began to dawn on him what they were implying. He narrowed his eyes. "Where's Sam?"
"I think that's enough," the leader said. "He's obviously not going to cooperate."
"What the hell? This is some kind of interrogation?" Dean sent an accusing glare at Bobby, feeling the stick of betrayal in his chest. "You're just here to get info outta me?"
Bobby refused to make eye contact.
Dean stared, unable to believe what he was seeing. That wasn't the Bobby he knew. None of this was right.
"Let's chain him in the corner," the leader said, motioning to the opposite wall. "I want him secure where I can see him, but I want him out of ear shot. I can't risk him reporting back."
"You crazy son of a bitch." Dean jerked at the restraints. "I don't work for no demons!"
The leader stepped to the table and towered over him. "It's not the demons I'm talking about."
Dean let out a nervous laugh. "Right, this is where you tell me it's much, much worse?"
The man remained stone faced. "Come, now. Stop playing this game," he said. "You know what I mean. I'm not going to let you jeopardize everything we've worked for, whether you are a victim or not."
The determination in his face, in his voice, cut through Dean until he was left with nothing but a chilling coldness. Dean swallowed it down, trying to keep that shaky panic deep inside, and kept his defiant glare. "Right, and what would that be?"
"He would have never let you go, which means when he comes, we'll be ready for him." Finally, a proud smile slipped across the man's face. "And then the terrible reign of Sam Winchester will finally come to end."
Post-Season 3 Fic. Mostly emotional whump, but physical whump as well.
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.